After five Rams players’ “hands up don’t shoot” gesture sparked controversy among the St. Louis law enforcement community, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said the players were practicing their freedom of speech. VPC
St. Louis County police and the Rams are at odds Monday night over whether a team official apologized for the “hands up-don’t shoot” gesture performed by five players before Sunday’s game.
Neither law enforcement officials nor Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ executive vice president and chief operations officer, dispute that Demoff reached out to St. Louis area police officials on Monday, a day after five Rams players made the famous gesture during pregame introductions. The content of those conversations, and the semantics of Demoff’s words, are up for debate.
Demoff told the St. Louis Post-Dispatchthat he did not apologize for the players’ actions, but that he “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 to heal,” Demoff told the paper late Monday.
In an email to USA TODAY Sports on Monday night, St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman said Chief Jon Belmar “believed it to be an apology.”
“[Demoff] further stated ‘I regretted any offense the officer’s may have taken.’ Even though Mr. Demoff stated he never apologized, 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,” Schellman said.
Indeed, Belmar followed up that call by writing a memo to his staff. In that memo, obtained by the Post-Dispatch, the chief told officers that Demoff “regretted that any members of the [Rams'] organization would act in a way that minimized the outstanding work that police officers and departments carry out each and every day.”
Earlier Monday, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said none of the five players would be punished the team for their hand’s up pose made before Sunday’s game against Oakland, nor will they face any sort of discipline from the NFL.
Fisher, who declined to answer questions about the demonstration, described the pregame gesture as a “choice to exercise their free speech.” He had not spoken to the five players about it by Monday evening, but he said he planned to.
“Those conversations will most likely remain confidential,” Fisher said.
The St. Louis Police Officers’ Association on Sunday night wrote a letter condemning the pose in light of a grand jury’s decision last week not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of African-American teenager Michael Brown.
The police officers’ association called the players’ actions “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.”
Several of the Rams players spoke to reporters after the Rams’ win Sunday evening, and said they were trying to do something positive.
“Violence should stop. There’s a lot of violence going on here in St. Louis. We definitely hear about it all, and we just want it to stop,” said receiver Stedman Bailey.
None of the five players who participated were available for interviews on Monday.