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Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: Rams Players Were Right to Stand up For Michael Brown

4 Dec

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

(from left to right):  Stedman  Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt expressed their solidarity with activists protesting against the no indictment ruling in favor of Ferguson police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown.  Photo by Huffington Post.

(from left to right): Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt expressed their solidarity with activists protesting against the no indictment ruling in favor of Ferguson police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. Photo by Huffington Post.

As a long-time sportswriter and columnist, one thing I have never done in print or cyberspace is openly express my fandom for a particular team, especially those I cover on a regular basis.

But last Sunday I became a fan of five members of the St. Louis Rams—Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt, not so much for what they did on the field in a 52-0 shutout of the Oakland Raiders, but for what they did before the game.

As they came out of the tunnel to begin the game, Bailey, Austin, Cook, Givens and Britt displayed, “the hands up, don’t shoot” gesture made popular during in Ferguson, Missouri during demonstrations protesting the decision of a St. Louis County Grand Jury not to indict former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Britt and rookie running back Tre Mason also performed the gesture during the game after scoring touchdowns.

Rams fans at Edward Jones Dome  in St. Louis express their views about the decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michel Brown in Ferguson, Mo.  Photo by CBS local in St. Louis.

Rams fans at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis express their views about the decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michel Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Photo by CBS local in St. Louis.

Black men, whether they be athletes or a sports writers, recognize that any of us can be victims of violence at the hands of police officers in the same way  Brown, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old who was recently shot to death in Cleveland while wielding a toy gun- were killed by the cops.

But usually, athletes tend to stay on the sidelines while others take to the streets in protest of yet another instance of the missive “There’s no justice, there’s just-us”. The possibility of lost endorsements, lost prestige and lost contract dollars tends to be their first thought.

In the tradition of Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ Black Power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics, the players decided to use their place on the NFL stage to highlight just how big a problem police brutality is, and how important it is to solve it.

“I just think there has to be a change,” Cook told the Associated Press. “There has to be a change that starts with the people that are most influential around the world.”

There was the inevitable push back, however, and it came from the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association. The SLPOA called on the NFL to discipline the players and make them apologize to police for making the gesture, which they called “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.”

While the Police Association acknowledged the player’s First Amendment rights, they also threatened to mount a protest of their own against the League.

“Cops have First Amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours,” said Jeff Roorda, a spokesman for the Police Association. “I’d remind the N.F.L. and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertisers’ products. It’s cops and the good people of St. Louis and other N.F.L towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it’s not the N.F.L. and the Rams, it’ll be cops and their supporters.”

(I should probably mention here that Roorda isn’t really a cop anymore. He was fired from his job as a cop in Arnold, Missouri for making false statements. Irony…)

To their credit, the NFL refused to bow down to the schoolyard bullies of the Police Association and discipline the players for exercising their First Amendment rights. I guess that Roger Goodell is too busy dealing with domestic violence and child abuse to add “attempting to change the Constitution because some cop’s feelings got hurt” to his to-do list.

But my question to the St. Louis Police Officer Association is what’s next? Will they threaten the thousands of protestors every time they point out an injustice by the cops? Will they racially profile the Rams’ Black players or refuse to provide security at future Rams games because someone dared to take a stand against the problem of police shooting unarmed Black men?

You would think in this time of heightened tensions between the African-American community and law enforcement that the St. Louis Police Officers Association would be coming up with ways to build better relationships with people of color. But all this did was reinforce the deep mistrust that many African Americans already had of the police.

While it wasn’t new, the Rams pre-game protest was refreshing in a day and age where prominent athletes shy away from anything controversial.

With their silent gesture, they spoke volumes.

Olympic Gold Medalist Allyson Felix Hopes for Another Golden Year in 2013

30 Apr
Four-time Olympic Gold Medalists is looking to have another good year in 2013.

Four-time Olympic Gold Medalists is looking to have another good year in 2013.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report/The Sunday Sun

(from left to right) Phoebe Wright, Allyson Felix, Doc Patton and Manteo Mitchell at Penn Relays USA versus the World Press Conference. Photo by Chris Murray.

(from left to right) Phoebe Wright, Allyson Felix, Doc Patton and Manteo Mitchell at Penn Relays USA versus the World Press Conference. Photo by Chris Murray.

PHILADELPHIA-Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix is coming off a 2012 track and field season that most sprinters would dream about.

Felix won the gold medal in the 200-meter dash (21.88) and she picked up more two more gold medals as a part of the women’s 4×100-meter and 4×400-meter relay teams at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The 4×100-meter relay squad not only won the gold, but also set a new world record. Felix was named the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) 2012 Female Athlete of the Year.

The 27-year-old Felix also had first place finishes in the 200-meter dash at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore. and won the 100-meter in the Diamond League meet in Doha, Qatar. After winning in London, Felix took a well-deserved two-month break from the track, but was still busy with commercial endorsements and traveling.

With the start of the 2013 outdoor season, Felix said she has other mountains to climb and other goals to accomplish with the U.S. Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa in June and the World Championships in Moscow looming on the horizon in August.

“I think any year after a major championship is difficult, just to get back moving coming off such a high,” Felix said during a press conference at the Penn Relays.  “And so for me I’ve just been trying to take things slowly. I think this is going to be a season where I have a gradual build up and hopefully will come together at nationals.”

Felix got her outdoor season going last weekend when she ran the lead-off leg for USA Red in the 4×100-meter relay as a part of the Penn Relays USA versus the World.

Unlike the outcome at the London Olympics, Team Jamaica, led by Olympic 100-meter champion Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, edged out Felix’s USA Red squad at the Penn Relays.

“It’s always good competition, they’re always ready,” Felix said. “We know that they’re always going to be there and they’re our main rival.”

Going up against the competition from a loaded Jamaican squad and against a talented pool of American runners, Felix is gearing up for a season where there will definitely be getting the best efforts of her opposition at various meets this season.

“It’s always harder to run with a target on your back and it’s harder once you’ve had success to keep it,” Felix said. “It’s finding the motivation, making sure your work ethic is the same and I think after you have a major championship, you always kind a question a little bit, ‘am I working as I could be. You’re constantly trying to push yourself.”

After taking a couple of months off, Felix admitted that getting back into training mode wasn’t easy, but her coach Bobby Kersee, who is known to be a task master, got her ready for the 2013 season and back to her regular training regimen.

“I was out of shape, but Bobby whipped me back into shape,” Felix said smiling. “I’m just going to take things slowly this year and it’s going to be a gradual process to get back to where I need to be.”

Felix said her big goal this season is to make the U.S. team that will compete in the World Track and Field Championships in Russia and to ultimately equal or exceed her performance at the London Olympics.