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"As far as the choice that the players made, no, they were exercising their right to free speech," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Monday. "They will not be disciplined by the club nor will they be disciplined by the National Football League as it was released today."
The players had used the team's pregame introductions to offer a show of support for protesters in nearby Ferguson. As the Rams' offense was introduced, 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 black teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Some witnesses said Brown had his hands up before being shot. Wilson, who is white, testified to the grand jury that Brown had hit him and reached for his gun.
The St. Louis Police Officers Association called for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a "very public apology," its 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 a statement Monday: "We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation."
While St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said he had received an apology from Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff, Demoff said Monday night that he did not apologize for the players' on-field action.
"In those conversations, I expressed regret that players' actions were construed negatively against law enforcement," Demoff told ESPN.com.
"At no time in any of the conversations did I apologize for the actions of our players," Demoff added. "[The Rams] do believe it is possible to support both our players' First Amendment rights and the efforts of local law enforcement to make this a better community."
The St. Louis County Police Department took to social media to explain its side of the story.
"Even though Mr. Demoff stated he never apologized, the Chief believed it 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," the department said on its Facebook page.
On Twitter, the department posted the following:
While the Rams organization and the police department attempt to navigate the fallout, Cook said the players' display was merely an act of solidarity.
"We kind of came collectively together and decided we wanted to do something," Cook said after the Rams' 52-0 victory. "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."
Information from ESPN.com Rams reporter Nick Wagoner was used in this report.