Players’ action ‘throws gasoline on an issue that doesn’t need to be inflamed’
The St. Louis County Police Officers Association (SLCPA) and the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) are unequivocally backing the St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA) condemnation of five Rams players using a football game to “inflame” an already difficult situation in Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown who was shot by a Ferguson police officer.
In several media interviews since SLPOA Business Manager Jeff Roorda condemned the “hands up” exhibition of the five as they entered the Oct. 30 football game in St. Louis, County Police Officers Association President Gabe Crocker echoed Roorda’s criticism reported in last week’s Labor Tribune.
“We completely disagree with what (the players) did,” Crocker said in a KTRS 550 radio interview with McGraw Milhaven, adding that the players’ display was “upsetting to police officers, first responders and the public.”
Crocker said the players “took it upon themselves to do something that drives a wedge and throws gasoline on an issue that doesn’t need to be inflamed.”
In a letter to both the National Football League and the NFL Players Association FOP National President Chuck Canterbury expressed the national organizations’ “outrage and deep disappointment.” (See separate story.)
In a statement immediately after the incident Roorda didn’t mince words: “…(to) perpetuate this myth that Michael Brown was executed by a brother police officer and then… take to the turf to call a now-exonerated officer a murderer, that is way out-of-bounds.”
Crocker said police officers he’s talked with “overwhelmingly support Roorda,” telling him, “It’s about time someone stood up and said something.”
A request by the police officers for the Rams to issue an apology and for the NFL to take some type of action against the five players has been rebuffed.
The police chiefs and both union leaders have had two meetings with the Rams who have refused to issue an apology but expressed concerns that if the on-field display offended anyone, no offense was meant. A third meeting is to be held but not yet scheduled.
Crocker noted that the NFL fines players if they “celebrate” too much in the end zone after a touchdown but won’t act in this more incendiary instance.
In a statement the Rams simply said:
“What has transpired over the past four months is a tragedy that has impacted our entire community. Together we are beginning a healing process that will require time, energy and honest dialogue. The Rams will continue to build on what have always been strong and valued relationships with local law enforcement and the greater St. Louis community as we come together to help heal our region.”
Noted NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy in a statement to USA TODAY Sports: “We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation.”
In a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Coach Jeff Fisher said that while the players were “exercising their right to free speech…It’s my personal opinion, and I firmly believe, that it’s important that I keep sports and politics separate. I’m a head coach. I’m not a politician, an activist, or an expert on societal issues. I’m going to answer questions about the game.”
‘CONTROVERSY AND DIVISION’
“What the Rams players did was unprofessional,” Crocker said on the air. “Here was a great opportunity to stand up and show St. Louis some pride and unity in our community, but instead they chose controversy and division.”
Roorda’s statement summed up the feeling of police officers, saying the players’ actions were “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.”
National police union takes NFL to task
Washington – Without mincing words, the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) took both the National Football League (NFL) and the NFL Players Association to task calling the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture by five Rams players “…deeply offensive to law enforcement officers, any one of whom might one day be placed in a similar situation… The use of this gesture is not supportive of peace and reconciliation – quite the opposite.”
FOP National President Chuck Canterbury on Dec. 1 wrote strong letters of condemnation to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.
Canterbury noted that the NFL’s refusal to take any action “seems at odds with the usual vigor that the NFL practices on issues of player misconduct or bad behavior.
“The contention that Michael Brown was attempting to surrender when he was killed has been decisively proved false. While his death was tragic, it is clear that Mr. Brown was the aggressor and Officer (Darren) Wilson used reasonable force to defend himself and his own life that August afternoon.”
Referring to the contention of those refusing the accept the Grand Jury’s decision and believe that Brown was deliberately shot and killed by Wilson, Canterbury said, “Make no mistake – this misconception is a contributing factor in the violence, looting and widespread destruction of property we have witnessed.”
To police officers, Canterbury said, “the ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ gesture is meant imply that Brown was executed by a racist police officer and that such interpretation is “repugnant and disrespectful (to all police officers).”
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