The St. Louis Rams on Wednesday made a donation to a local charity that supports families of fallen police officers, EMTs, and firefighters, less than two weeks after five of the team’s players walked onto the field displaying the now-iconic “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” gesture that has become a rallying cry at protests of police violence across the country.
The Rams players were protesting a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August. The protest drew outrage from a local police union that wanted the team to publicly apologize and discipline the players.
The Backstoppers, the local charity, did not disclose the amount of the donation, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and would not speculate to the paper if the donation was in response to police outcry over the protest. Rams officials didn’t comment.
The president of the St. Louis County Police Association told the Post-Dispatch that the donation, which will be made on the field before the Rams play the Arizona Cardinals tonight, was “a good first step to repairing the damage that was done several weeks ago.” But he also said the association was still unhappy with the players, adding, “I still would not expect many public safety folks to be lining up for tickets.”
The Rams had previously denied apologizing for the players’ gesture, and Rams head coach Jeff Fisher had said he would not discipline the players for taking part in the demonstration. The NFL also declined to fine or discipline the players. The Rams previously donated tickets to a preseason game to Ferguson-area high school football players when the original protests against Brown’s death broke out in August.
The Rams have donated to this charity before, and supporting families of emergency workers who die in the line of duty — or any other charity — is a worthy cause. But doing so on the field before a nationally-televised game, with a connection to such a hot-button issue, essentially amounts to publicly shaming the five players — all of whom are black — who took part in the protest. The players have not apologized.
Since their protest, other gestures have followed throughout collegiate and professional sports. A college basketball player in Illinois protested on the court before a game, while NFL and NBA players, including two of the Rams players involved in the original protest, have adopted another slogan — “I Can’t Breathe,” relating to the police killing of Eric Garner in New York — as a protest gesture this week.