The five St. Louis Rams players who walked out during pre-game player introductions last Sunday imitating the “hands up, don’t shoot” pose in support of Michael Brown, were applauded by John Carlos, 69, the bronze medalist sprinter known for raising his fist on the medal stand during the 1968 Summer Olympics.
The image of Carlos, and his teammate, Tommie Smith, raising their fists after being awarded their gold and bronze medals, respectively, is one of the most famous moments in sports and civil rights history. Even though athletes are expected to just perform and entertain, an international audience saw two committed Black men make a statement for human rights.
“[The Rams players] realize that there is a need for a voice and they had the right opportunity–like we did—to be that voice, to be heard,” Carlos told the Daily News.
“Their job was to go out and to play football, that doesn’t preclude them from what’s happening in society. They’re concerned about humanity, with young Black kids being gun downed.”
“It’s anyone’s duty to speak up,” Carlos added. “It takes courage. It takes willingness. It takes insight.”
The St. Louis Police Officer’s Association (SLPOA) was upset with the symbolic poses, demanding an apologiy from the team and punishment be levied by the NFL—much like the International Olympic Committee was with Carlos and Smith.
Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook and Chris Givens received criticism from the SLPOA, who said they were “profoundly disappointed” in a statement released last Sunday.
Britt said the players wanted to let the community know they had their support.
“I don’t want the people in the community to feel like we turned a blind eye to it,” he told the Associated Press.
The St. Louis Rams denied the claims that they issued an apology to the St. Louis Police Department for the gestures made by the players.