This article originally posted on wibc.com
As the St Louis Rams exited the tunnel during the team introduction in their football game against the Oakland Raiders, five Rams – led by Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin – put their hands up in the air in an homage to the Ferguson protesters slogan of, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”
They should be suspended.
What these Rams players – as I now call them, The Rams Five – did Sunday night was disgusting. They perpetuated a meme that has been proven false. Michael Brown did not have his hands in the air. Michael Brown was not giving up. Michael Brown charged officer Darren Wilson after he physically assaulted him in his car.
In the simplest of terms, The Rams Five lied on national television in support of an ideological obedience to race.
Britt, a receiver on the Rams, said about the move, “Taking sides? We wanted to show that we were there for a cause that something positive comes out of it.”
What good comes from a maneuver, on the biggest stage you can find, that further divides Ferguson, and the nation? This was not about political speech. This was the very worst of racial politics.
Hands Up, Don’t Shoot is a myth, and should hold no place in America as a symbol for justice. This is not Muhammed Ali refusing to serve in the military. This is not the 1968 Olympics; Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raising one arm, their hands encased in black gloves.
Hands Up, Don’t Shoot is not a call to justice (not like the other examples are either, honestly.) It is a call to allow looters and rioters and law breakers to engage in such activities without repercussions.
This is what five professional football players agreed with Sunday afternoon; looting, rioting and law breaking. What they said is, “Yes, we agree. It’s about evil White cops attacking unarmed Black teens. It is not about the facts of the case in any way.”
They showed an ideological obedience to race. They chose race over facts. They chose race over the rule of law. They chose race over decency. They chose race over Natalie’s Bakery and Sam’s Meat Market, both of which were destroyed in the aftermath of the grand jury decision. They value destroyed businesses over rational protests and honest discussion.
The Rams Five did more to hurt race relations in that moment than Al Sharpton has all year.
It’s disgusting. And it’s wrong.
The NFL should fine them, and I assume they will. However, the Rams ownership needs to sit them down. Not for tea, and not to hold hands and understand their feelings. But suspend them without pay for one game, or two.
The Rams Five would be well within their rights to join in protests on their own time any time. However, to do so on the field is to say that the St. Louis Rams, and the NFL, condone such activities. In a league that wouldn’t allow former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon to wear a headband that read “Rozelle” on it, one must assume that proactive, bigoted, fear mongering political speech (as well as lying) will not be tolerated.
The Rams Five chose the “black” race over the “human” race, and did so at the expense of the truth, and every paying fan and advertiser. The Rams organization, and the NFL, must respond.