St. Louis Rams ‘Hands Up’: A Thank You Note
Dear Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt of the St. Louis Rams,
Thank you for putting your hands up. The gesture was poignant and simple. It wasn’t inflammatory — it wasn’t a rant that could be interpreted and twisted by media. You put your hands up and told us what we needed to know. By surrendering, you did just the opposite, and did so in a productive manner. A non-violent protest Martin Luther King would likely admire, it’s peaceful disagreement with the Michael Brown, Darren Wilson grand jury verdict.
Thank you for making football about more than just football. Because anyone who says ‘shut up and play’ is depriving you of individualism. The NFL is a pedestal that uplifts people like Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, who are, in the most lenient sense, trapped in an archaic cocoon of ignorant decision-making, where they can act as if it is still the 1800’s and people can beat their wives, children and reject the idea of same sex marriage. At worst, those men are abusive, disgusting individuals. But the “NFL pedestal” can also illuminate inspiring individuals like you. And by bringing football into that realm, you have encouraged people who may not normally debate those things (for example, you’ve allowed a blogger like me to discuss it). Your statement might be dismissed or misunderstood, but you’ve had your say and that’s what matters.
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Thank you for generating an off-the-field headline worth writing. Because journalists must illuminate the very-obviously negative transgressions, but it’s also important to open a discussion about “transgressions” like this, that can be interpreted and debated. Reports have come out that Brown did not have his hands up, yet a witness says they saw his hands up in surrender, so many question the validity of this 'hands up' protest. But even if Brown didn't, it speaks to cases where people were surrendering and to the greater racial issues in America. Thus, this topic is worth debating, worth discussing and worth bearing in our minds for the rest of our lives.
Thank you for speaking your mind and thank you for reminding us that athletes are human — you have feelings, emotions and opinions, too. The NFL is a big corporation that irons out wrinkles with suspensions. Like any business, they depend upon money — and when there’s money to be made, there are few things they won’t do to make it. So while it would be odd for employees of Morgan Stanley to walk into their office with their hands up, they’re not a part of the world’s most popular reality television show. They don’t have a voice like you, projected to millions over CBS and NBC and ESPN. We forget -- perhaps because of games like Madden where we can "control" players like drones -- that athletes get tired or have emotion. With the exception of superhumans like Aaron Rodgers and Adam Vinatieri, athletes get weighed down by pressure. Instead, these Rams have felt a growing sentiment within the St. Louis community, and they have responded much like Rodgers might respond to a tough defense by scoring a touchdown in the final minutes of a game — these Rams players have risen to the occasion and responded with a perfect answer at an important moment.
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Thank you for being role models. When Derek Jeter retired, pro sports lost one of the most outstanding, untarnished athletes. He was someone youngsters should want to emulate. The individuals that don’t agree with the statement the Rams’ players made probably no longer considered Bailey, Austin, Cook, Givens and Britt role models. But frankly, those people are also trapped in the aforementioned, archaic cocoon of ignorant decision-making, too. Because the Rams players didn’t rant on television, they didn’t burn cars in the street or loot convenience stores. The Rams walked out of a tunnel with their hands up — that’s all. They encouraged critical thought in space (sports), because maybe — just maybe — issues of race are relevant in the sporting world, too.
Follow or direct angry qualms to Henry McKenna on twitter @McKennAnalysis.
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