-- A St. Louis Rams official reached out to local police Monday, a day after five players from the team entered their home field with their arms raised in support for nearby Ferguson, drawing the ire of law enforcement.
But Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff and police officials disagree over whether Demoff’s efforts amounted to an apology.
Demoff says he did not apologize for the players’ actions.
"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."
Demoff’s statement was spurned by St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, who sent an email to staff Monday, alerting them of Demoff’s “apology.”
“I received a very nice call this morning from Mr. Kevin Demoff of the St. Louis Rams who wanted to take the opportunity to apologize to our department on behalf of the Rams for the ‘Hands Up’ gesture that some players took the field with yesterday,” the email reads.
“Mr. Demoff clearly regretted that any members of the Ram's organization would act in a way that minimized the outstanding work that police officers and departments carry out each and every day. My impression of the call was that it was heartfelt and I assured him that I would share it with my staff.”
St. Louis police issued their own account after Demoff’s statement.
“Chief Belmar was contacted today by St. Louis Rams COO Kevin Demoff. The Chief never asked for anyone from the Rams to contact him. He said the conversation was pleasant. The Chief sent an email to his police staff and used the word ‘apologized.’ Mr. Demoff is quoted in the St. Louis Post Dispatch story saying, ‘I expressed to both of them that I felt badly that our players' support of the community was taken as disrespectful to law enforcement.’ He further stated ‘I regretted any offense the officer’s may have taken.’
“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.”
St. Louis County Police used Twitter to define the word “apology.”
The apology – or non-apology, depending on whom you ask – concerned players Jared Cook, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens and Tavon Austin, who stopped near the tunnel Sunday and raised their hands during introductions before the team’s 52-0 win against the Raiders, acknowledging the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson Aug. 9 with a “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture. A grand jury declined to bring charges against Wilson, sparking renewed protests in the St. Louis suburb.
Britt claimed that 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."
After the display, the St. Louis Police Officers Association released a statement Sunday saying it was “profoundly disappointed,” and calling for the players and team to make a public apology.
“Now that the evidence is in and Officer Wilson's account has been verified by physical and ballistic evidence as well as eye-witness testimony, which led the grand jury to conclude that no probable cause existed that Wilson engaged in any wrongdoing, it is unthinkable that hometown athletes would so publicly perpetuate a narrative that has been disproven over-and-over again,” SLPOA Business Manager Jeff Roorda said in the statement.
The National Fraternal Order of Police also sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Monday, stating frustrations that the players will not face discipline for their actions.
During a Monday news conference, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said it’s important to “keep sports and politics separate.”
"As far as the choice that the players made, no, they were exercising their right to free speech," Fisher said. "They will not be disciplined by the club nor will they be disciplined by the National Football League as it was released today. That's all I'm going to say.”
ESPN contributed to this report.