The St. Louis Rams will not fine the players who struck the “hands up, don’t shoot” pose in solidarity with Ferguson protesters, head coach Jeff Fisher announced Monday. Five members of the Rams’ offense -- wide receivers Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens and Tavon Austin and tight end Jared Cook -- made the gesture before the team’s 52-0 victory Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
“As far as the choice that the players made, no, they were exercising their right to free speech. They will not be disciplined by the club nor will they be disciplined by the National Football League as it was released today,” Fisher said at a press conference, according to ESPN.
Fisher’s announcement came hours after an NFL spokesperson confirmed the league would not fine or discipline the Rams players for their gesture. “We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation,” NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement, according to USA Today.
The St. Louis Police Officers Association had called for league officials to engage in disciplinary action and for the NFL to publicly apologize. “I'd remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser's products. It's cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it's not the NFL and the Rams, then it'll be cops and their supporters,” SLPOA representative Jeff Roorda said in a statement.
“Hands up, don’t shoot” was a rallying cry for protesters who decried the fatal Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Some witnesses said Brown raised his hands in surrender before Wilson fired the fatal shots. Wilson testified he fired his gun in self-defense after Brown assaulted him during a skirmish. Ultimately, a St. Louis County decided Nov. 24 that Wilson would not be indicted on criminal charges in connection with the shooting.
For Cook, the “hands up, don’t shoot gesture” was the Rams players’ way of making a statement about the tragic situation that unfolded in the team’s home state. “We kind of came collectively together and decided we wanted to do something,” Cook said Sunday, according to Yahoo Sports. “We haven’t been able to go down to Ferguson to do anything because we have been busy. Secondly, it’s kind of dangerous down there and none of us want to get caught up in anything. So we wanted to come out and show our respect to the protests and the people who have been doing a heck of a job around the world.”