Last night, the St. Louis Police Officers Association released a statement that asked for four Rams who made the "hands up, don't shoot" gesture related to the Mike Brown case "to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology."
Don't be confused. The statement isn't addressed to the Rams because that's not who it's intended for.
NFL clubs know hyperbole and public relations. They're the ones pushing it on the fans relentlessly. So to see them as the false recipients of it would be humorous under other circumstances. Consider the statement from the SLPOA and its Business Manager Jeff Roorda (himself no stranger to controversy and hardly an unbiased actor in this).
Look at this paragraph:
Our officers have been working 12 hour shifts for over a week, they had days off including Thanksgiving cancelled so that they could defend this community from those on the streets that perpetuate this myth that Michael Brown was executed by a brother police officer and then, as the players and their fans sit safely in their dome under the watchful protection of hundreds of St. Louis's finest, they take to the turf to call a now-exonerated officer a murderer, that is way out-of-bounds, to put it in football parlance.
Did any of the Rams call someone a murderer? Of course not. It doesn't matter. This isn't speaking to the Rams. It's not speaking to all Rams fans. It's speaking to the large group of people who immediately assume credibility on the part of Roorda and anyone else from the police.
It doesn't matter that the gesture had nothing to do with evidence or the facts in the case. It was symbolic. As Kenny Britt said:
Britt said it wasn’t used by the receivers as an indication that they were taking sides.
"No, not at all," Britt told reporters. " ... We just wanted to let the (Ferguson) community know that we support them."
It doesn't matter that, like any group of 50+ adults, you're going to have differing viewpoints and that a symbolic gesture of unity with the community can also include viewpoints that aren't absolutist in support of the protesters and the anti-establishment vein running through this:
"I think that the store owners that were looted, you feel for them and what they’re going through," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "You feel for the kids that had school canceled. You just want things to get back to normal as soon as possible.
"However long that road is, hopefully today for three and whatever hours was kind of a little bit of relief so people could just take their minds off of the situation and enjoy some Rams football."
None of that matters. What matters in the end is that four very visible NFL players, though the story likely wouldn't have gotten much traction without Roorda's insertion last night, made a gesture associated with one of the more volatile stories in the current news cycle. And that gesture disrupted, at least partially, the power balance which is exactly what this entire case, story and situation is about. Roorda knows this:
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.
That's not just dog-whistle material. That's the undercurrent of the entire discussion.
That undercurrent just swept the Rams into the Ferguson media tide. And the tide is strong enough that you can't swim against it.
many say the cops in stl are out of touch. you’re REALLY missing the point. they are in touch with whom they wish to be in touch with.— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) December 1, 2014