Kevin Demoff, vice president for the St. Louis Rams, denied Monday night that he had issued an apology to the St. Louis County Department over the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture displayed by five of the team’s players in solidarity with Ferguson protests, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar had claimed that Demoff had apologized following the players’ move during Sunday’s game with the Oakland Raiders, after it was criticized by the St. Louis police association.
Demoff reportedly said that he had met with the heads of the St. Louis and Ferguson police forces, as well as with other local law enforcement officials about the players' actions, and told them that he "felt badly that our players' support of the community was taken as disrespectful to law enforcement," according to the Post-Dispatch.
"In none of these conversations did I apologize for our players' actions. I did say in each conversation that I regretted any offense their officers may have taken. We do believe it is possible to both support our players' First Amendment rights and support the efforts of local law enforcement as our community begins the process of healing," Demoff reportedly added. "Chief Belmar's assertion that our conversation was heartfelt is accurate, and I would characterize our conversation as productive,” Demoff added.
Following Demoff's comments to the Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Police County Police wrote on its Facebook page that though Demoff stated that he did not apologize to the police department, "the Chief believed it to be an apology and the Chief sent the email to police staff to let them know about the call, after he told Mr. Demoff he would share his sentiments with his staff."
Jeff Roorda, the business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, had expressed “profound disappointment” over the actions of the players -- Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens and Tavon Austin and tight end Jared Cook -- and their ignorance of the evidence that influenced the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown on Aug. 9.
However, the players’ gesture was praised by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
“Our nation's athletes play an important role as activists. They wield an influence and boast a platform that can be neither overlooked nor negated. The NAACP is heartened by the fact that some of the St. Louis Rams players used their voices to send a resounding message of justice to the world,” the NAACP said. The civil rights group had also expressed its disappointment over the grand jury’s decision, which triggered days of unrest in Ferguson and across the United States.
On Monday, the head coach of the team announced that the Rams players will not be fined or disciplined for their gesture, which was adopted by people demonstrating against the police over the fatal shooting of the 18-year-old unarmed black teen by Wilson, a white police officer.