St. Louis Rams' "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" Protest Was Labeled "Offensive" In A Tone-Deaf Critique By Ferguson Police
Did you tune into all of Sunday's NFL action? If so, you may have seen a relatively rare sight — the outside world of politics, protest and civil disobedience bleeding over onto the playing field; five members of the St. Louis Rams made their feelings about the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson pretty clear. They came out onto the field in "hands up, don't shoot" mode, and not everybody was happy with it. In fact, the St. Louis police condemned the Rams protest as "offensive" Sunday, and yes, the comment was every bit as tone-deaf as you might be guessing.
The criticism was lobbed by a man named Jeff Roorda, the executive director and business manager of the St. Louis Police Officer's Association (SLPOA), as well as a Democratic member of the Missouri House of Representatives. Roorda is a particularly controversial choice to be making these sorts of criticisms, given his personal history as relates to St. Louis-area police — Roorda was fired from his job as a police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Arnold in 2001, according to the Los Angeles Times, on allegations he'd filed a false statement against a suspect.
He's also championed some strenuously pro-police causes that have been highly controversial — opposing body cameras for officers, for example, on the grounds that recording police encounters only shows "one angle of an encounter," and "have been bad for law enforcement and the communities they protect" by causing "constant second-guessing by the courts and the media," according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Basically, that he's got an aggressively pro-police angle on this story isn't surprising.
The SLPOA statement begins by blasting the five Rams players' demonstration as "tasteless, offensive and inflammatory" before quoting Roorda, who aims to convince the NFL to actually discipline the players for their show of solidarity. That's right — at a time when the league's protocols for discipline are under heavy scrutiny, Roorda and the SLPOA want the league to start punishing political protest.
I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights. Well I've got news for people who think that way, cops have first amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours. 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.
Of particular note, Roorda attacks the Rams players for ignoring the "mountain of evidence" released after a grand jury's non-indictment of Wilson. At this point, thanks to dutiful reporting from various sources — NBC legal analyst Lisa Bloom, for one — the trenchancy, professionalism and sincerity of the WIlson prosecution have all been thrown into severe question.
But setting that aside, the idea that even a perfectly conducted grand jury non-indictment precludes reasonable dissent is at the very least controversial, but considering the source this tact is coming from — Roorda also sponsored a bill in the Missouri House to conceal the names of police officers who've shot people unless they're charged with a crime, so in his ideal world we likely wouldn't even know about the non-indicted Darren Wilson — it's maybe not so surprising. Be sure to keep an eye on this. It'll be interesting to see where it goes next.