St. Louis police backtrack after claiming NFL team apologized for ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ gesture
The St. Louis Police Department backtracked late Monday night from reports saying that the NFL’s St. Louis Rams had apologized for five team members displaying the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” protest gesture during a game on Sunday.
“This morning, I had phone conversations with both Chief [Sam] Dotson and Chief [Jon] Belmar regarding yesterday’s events,” vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I expressed to both of them that I felt badly that our players’ support of the community was taken as disrespectful to law enforcement.”
A statement released by the team and posted online by KSDK-TV shows no apology:
— Rob Edwards (@RobertDEdwards) December 2, 2014
This contradicts an email that Belmar, head of the county police, sent to his officers saying that Demoff called him on Monday morning and apologized for members of his team behaving “in a way that minimized the outstanding work that police officers and departments carry out each and every day.”
The department had demanded that the team apologize after the players, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook and Chris Givens, came out for their introductions on Sunday with their hands up, a sign of support for protesters criticizing police violence following the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson this past August.
A grand jury decided last week not to indict Wilson, spurring protests both in the St. Louis area and around the world. But the St. Louis Police Officers Association called the players’ gesture “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory,” and demanded that the league discipline the players. The league declined to do so.
The department posted a statement late Monday night on its Facebook page saying that Belmar “believed [Demoff’s statement] 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.”
At the same time, however, the department seemingly suggested on its Twitter page that Demoff actually did apologize:
Apology: "expression of regret for not being able to do something" @kdemoff: "I regretted any offense their officers may have taken."
— St. Louis County PD (@stlcountypd) December 2, 2014