Rams players salute Ferguson

ST. LOUIS -- Five Rams players used the team's pregame introductions to offer a show of support for nearby Ferguson before Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders.

As the offense was introduced, Rams tight end Jared Cook and receivers Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens and Tavon Austin stopped near the tunnel and raised their hands in a nod to the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9.

"We kind of came collectively together and decided we wanted to do something," Cook said. "We haven't been able to go down to Ferguson to do anything because we have been busy. Secondly, it's kind of dangerous down there and none of us want to get caught up in anything.

"So we wanted to come out and show our respect to the protests and the people who have been doing a heck of a job around the world."

Earlier this week, the Rams spent time lamenting the fact that there wasn't much they could do to help with the unrest in Ferguson. But Cook said he plans to go to Ferguson once things settle down.

"My sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law -- all of them went this past week for Thanksgiving," Cook said. "They came back and reported to me about the things they saw and what was going on around there. Definitely, I will be making a trip to Ferguson."

Britt said he and his teammates were not "taking sides" with their display.

"We wanted to show that we are organized for a great cause and something positive comes out of it," Britt said. "That's what we hope we can make happen. That's our community. We wanted to let the community know that we support the community."

Despite that intention, the St. Louis Police Officers Association released a statement Sunday night decrying the players' display.

"The SLPOA is calling for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology," the statement read in part.

"I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights," SLPOA business manager Jeff Roorda said in the statement. "Well, I've got news for people who think that way: Cops have first amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours. I'd remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser's products. It's cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it's not the NFL and the Rams, then it'll be cops and their supporters."

In response, Brian McCarthy, the NFL's VP of communications, released the following statement Monday: "We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation."

Multiple players and coach Jeff Fisher spoke during the week about trying to offer a three-hour or so distraction from what's happening in their community.

But Cook said that the Rams, who won 52-0 over the Raiders, did not necessarily need to win in order to cause a diversion.

"I wouldn't consider it necessarily a diversion, because [the unrest in Ferguson] is an important issue as well," Cook said.

On Sunday, the Rams offered a few other small ways to offer support.

The Rams' players, coaches and staff also locked arms during the national anthem in a sign of support for the community.

In addition, the Rams took some steps to reach out to those affected by the unrest. The team hosted small business owners who lost their businesses to fires and volunteers who helped the ensuing cleanup efforts at the game. The team also ran the PSA at halftime called "St. Louis Stands Together."

"The organization has been doing those type of things without the intention of getting recognition," Fisher said. "They're just doing it to help. I'm just glad that we could put together a great win here today."

The Rams also planned to play a series of public service announcements featuring Fisher and some players discussing how to build a stronger St. Louis.

Leading up to Sunday, there had been some speculation that the Rams-Raiders game might be moved from the Edward Jones Dome because of the unrest, but the game went on as scheduled with additional security in place.

According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the team did, however, explore some contingency plans that included the possibility of playing Sunday or Monday night in a nearby NFL city such as Indianapolis.