When the Missouri-based NFL team entered Sunday’s game some players symbolically recreated the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” rallying cry of Ferguson protesters who have been active in that city since the police shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, on August 9.
Supporters of Brown have maintained that he had his hands up and was surrendering when Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed him. Wilson and Ferguson authorities dispute that account, claiming that Brown attacked police and posed a deadly threat that day. A grand jury chose not to indict Wilson in the death of Brown last week and the officer has since decided to resign from the police department.
These Rams players’ show of solidarity was reminiscent of when Miami Heat players posed in hoodies to honor Trayvon Martin back in 2012. When the Los Angeles Clippers wanted to display their displeasure with their owner, Donald Sterling, after racist remarks he’d made privately went viral earlier this year, they purposely wore their warm-up shirts inside out and discarded their team jackets in the center of the court.
In the wake of the grand jury decision in the Brown case, a number of professional athletes have expressed their outrage via social media. New Orleans Saints’ tight end Benjamin Watson penned an open letter this week on the topic which was posted to Facebook and quickly went viral.
“I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes,” Watson wrote. He added that he was frustrated by pop culture’s glorification of confrontations between police and citizens,” he wrote. “I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a ‘threat’ to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.”