Because of the uniforms which the league goes to such great lengths to keep uniform, and the helmets that lend a faceless quality to NFL players, it’s easy to forget there are people inside.
And because of the culture of uniformity the league insists upon, it stands out when any of them stand out.
That’s why another individual who was willing to speak his mind with a raised hand was proud of the St. Louis Rams yesterday, for their support of slain Missouri teen Michael Brown.
Dr. John Carlos rose to fame during the 1968 Olympics, when he and teammate Tommie Smith raised their gloved fists in a protest for human rights, turning the Olympic medal podium into a powerful pulpit.
“How about those Rams? They may be under contract to play football, but greater than that, they have a right to care about humanity,” Carlos told Dave Zirin of The Nation. “They have the right to feel whether something is just or unjust. They are entitled to their opinions, most centrally that Michael Brown’s life should not have been taken. Asking them to just ‘shut up and play’ is like asking a human being to be paint on the wall. They have the right to say what they feel in their heart.
“A lot more athletes need to step up and speak up as well. These atrocities have been going on and we are saying enough is enough. I remember saying in 1968, you think I’m bad, just wait until this new generation comes out. I feel like that new generation is here at last.”
Rams wide receivers Kenny Britt an Tavon Austin came out of the tunnel in the pregame and gave the “hands up don’t shoot” gesture to show solidarity with protestors in nearby Ferguson, and they were joined by teammates Stedman Bailey, Jared Cook and Chris Givens. Running back Tre Mason joined later upon scoring a touchdown.
Fortunately, the league hasn’t bowed to the local official who wanted the players disciplined. With everything that’s been done to regulate the speech, dress and individuality of players, that’s a solid, if small step.