Updated 06:04 AM EDT, Sat, Oct 23, 2021

Rams, St. Louis Police Dispute Apology Over Players’ Tribute

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Five Rams players who entered Sunday's game against Oakland mirroring the "hands up, don't shoot" gesture used by protestors across the country will not be fined by the NFL, to the dismay of local law enforcement.

In an email obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar alerted his staff that Rams Vice President of Football Operations Kevin Demoff apologized on behalf of the organization. Demoff refuted Belmar's claim late Monday evening, stating "In none of these conversations did I apologize for our players' actions. I did say in each conversation that I regretted any offense their officers may have taken."

The back-and-forth exchange continued on social media where the St. Louis County Police Department defended their claim. "Even though Mr. Demoff stated he never apologized, the Chief believed it to be an apology," the department said via its Facebook page. On Twitter, they simply wrote:

Apology: "expression of regret for not being able to do something: @kdemoff: "I regretted any offense their officers may have taken."

The trouble started when Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens, Stedman Bailey, and Kenny Britt walked out to pre-game introductions with their palms in the air, decrying the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by former Ferguson officer Darren Wilson. Jurors' decision not to indict Wilson led to riots in the St. Louis area and nationwide protests as to whether police violence gets overlooked, especially in the black community.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association found the Rams' actions "profoundly disappointing" and "tasteless, offensive and inflammatory," according to a lengthy statement released Sunday. Jeff Roorda, the association's business manager, called for the players to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a public apology.

Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said his players would not be disciplined, citing their right to free speech. The league shared the sentiment.

"We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement released Monday.

Sunday's display was not the first by athletes in response to a racially charged issue.

LeBron James and other Miami Heat players wore hooded sweatshirts, like the one Trayvon Martin wore, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of Martin's death in 2013. Last April, Los Angeles Clippers players wore black headbands and piled their warm-up uniforms at center court before a playoff game after owner Donald Sterling was recorded making racial remarks. The NBA did not penalize either team.

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