Ever since the grand jury in Missouri decided two weeks ago that there was not enough evidence to indict now former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in his role of the unfortunate shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, I have tried very hard not to voice my opinion on the situation for fear that it might get construed as being racist.
After all, at last check, I am a white man, like Officer Wilson. I am not an African-American, like the deceased. So any stand I might take in the situation may be portrayed as being a white/black opinion, because I cannot relate with the trials and tribulations that black people feel, especially when it comes to the way black people are treated by law enforcement officers.
So I said nothing. I just didn't understand why the residents of Ferguson, Missouri would want to trash where they lived, that they wanted to loot and steal from business owners, burn the businesses to the ground simply because they believed justice wasn't properly served. That those people took to the streets to hunt and maim innocent business owners, their own neighbors, because an innocent teenager was killed at the hands of the law.
I didn't understand that after the grand jury failed to indict a police officer doing his job, that a pack of hoodlums dragged an elderly man out of his vehicle _ a man who had an oxygen tank simply to live and breathe _ and drove over the man, still attached to the tank, while the whole incident was captured by a news gathering organization. Yes, I guess that's a form of protest.
I also didn't understand how so many people rallied around the family of this Michael Brown, a hulking 300-pound young man who was caught on videotape just 20 minutes prior to his shooting punching a convenience store owner in the face after Brown refused to pay for two packs of Tiparillos. Hey, I guess he needed a smoke that bad.
I didn't understand how an 18-year-old teenager could have a long arrest record, with an assortment of seven prior arrests. I didn't understand how Brown had no regard for Officer Wilson, failing to adhere to what Wilson had to tell him about walking in the middle of the street, so much so that he went after the cop, tried to close the cop's car door on him, then reached into the car to strike the officer in an attempt to steal his gun.
I didn't understand any of that. But the outcry was so widespread that one would think that Michael Brown was a bastion of society, that he was unjustly treated like perhaps Mahatma Gandhi or Anwar Sadat. Or in more of a layman's terms of recent years, like the way Abner Louima or Mamadou Diallo were brutalized by the New York City police department. Then, I could see the outcry, the outrage, the anger.
But this was a career criminal at age 18, a big bully punk who had no regard for the law. He was told to stop by the police officer, refused, got into a physical altercation with the cop and was subsequently shot and killed. Now, did he need to be shot six times? No, that's where I think Officer Wilson was wrong. But in terms of it being a justified shooting, I don't think there's any debate.
I don't understand how this has become a racial debate, a source for more of a racial rift than already exists in our great nation. Like we needed more of a reason to create more of a chasm. But this wasn't a black/white issue by any means, except for the undeniable fact that Michael Brown was indeed black and Officer Wilson is indeed white.
This wasn't black/white. This was right/wrong.
And that is coming from someone who doesn't have a racist bone in my body. I grew up in Jersey City, in a racially diverse neighborhood, in fact, a complete melting pot of society, more so than a lot of other locations in our great nation.
My favorite athletes growing up were almost all black, people like Willie Mays and Walt Frazier and Joe Frazier and Bubba Smith and Deacon Jones. I once made a joke to my father when I was five years old that after watching the Flip Wilson Show on TV that I wanted to be "a Temptation." I envisioned myself hanging out with the Jackson Five and dancing on stage with Michael.
I never have once treated anyone differently because of the color of their skin. I coached kids of all colors, creeds, religions, backgrounds. I've written about them all. I've had several friends from grade school through high school into college and beyond.
I didn't have to write that to justify myself, but I didn't form my opinion on this matter because of my race. I believe that Michael Brown was way wrong in doing what he did. Did he deserve to die? Probably not. But if he would have obeyed the law in the first place for the first seven times he was arrested, then the incident with the store owner 20 minutes before he was shot and then when Officer Wilson first addressed him, he would still be alive today.
With that now all out of the way, I was absolutely disgusted and dismayed and frankly embarrassed by the way five members of my favorite football team, the St. Louis Rams, entered the field Sunday before they faced the Oakland Raiders.
It was the Rams' receiving corps, namely receivers Travon Austin, Steadman Bailey, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt, took the field Sunday and posed in the now famous "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" formation as they were introduced.
It wasn't the time or the place for the Rams to make a political statement. In fact, it was idiotic timing and in bad taste, especially with the tensions of the community still tepid in the area.
And it really took away from what was a great win for the Rams. I had one friend call me to tell me that the Rams had waited years for such a great one-sided win (they won 52-0) and all people wanted to talk about was the protest of the players.
There's no way no how that these five Rams players asked the coaches, the general manager or the administration to see if it was okay if they could make a statement like this. After all, this wasn't for domestic violence awareness or child abuse awareness or one of the countless cancer and health-related issues that the NFL proudly supports.
No, these were five African-American football players snubbing their noses at the local police and law enforcement officials by acting out what they thought was support to the black community or even the Brown family.
What makes the incident involving the Rams even more sickening is that one of the players who took part in this protest was none other than Bayonne's resident bastion of goodness and wonderment Britt, who has been arrested a total of seven times in recent years for an assortment of charges.
Britt has found himself behind bars for speeding, driving without a legitimate license or insurance, as well as three different drug related arrests. He was involved in an altercation at a party in Jersey City that resulted in a stabbing and yes, he's even posted bail for someone who was arrested and charged with murder.
And what did Britt's "cousin" allegedly do? He merely ran down a guy with his car, then got out of the car, dragged him to the edges of the Hudson River in Hoboken and threw him into the icy waters of the Hudson.
But Britt, because he makes more than a million a year to play football, posted the bail for that kind, considerate soul.
And Britt now wants to make a protest stand that slaps every single person who has been involved in law enforcement right in the face? The nerve. Britt should be thankful he's able to make millions playing football and keep his mouth shut and his protestations to himself.
The Rams had a big win, but their behavior sickened me. It's tough enough being a Rams fan and having to deal with all the ridicule and scorn I had to hear because they have been so God-awful on the gridiron. Now, they have a good win and this is what people will remember.
And again, this was a display that these five chuckleheads did on their own without permission of the team that SIGNS THEIR PAY CHECKS. With that in mind, they should be fined just as much as someone who gets flagged for a personal foul penalty or taunting or even being late for a team meeting. This was insubordination in its finest sense and they should all pay the price for their hideous indiscretion.
And as for Kenny Britt, shame on you, but then again at this point, we've all come to expect such infantile and idiotic behavior. It's all become part of the norm for him. He gives everyone in Hudson County reason to be so very proud, right? Instead of standing on a stepstool waving a flag that he's one of our own, we all kind of hide our eyes and ears and hope the last story involving Britt isn't true _ when it most certainly is.
Shame on the Rams' futile five for throwing a wet rag over a good win. And for forcing me to make a stand on this situation I really didn't want to make.
Now, watch the floodgates get opened with this one.
Incredibly, there were four juveniles who beat an unarmed man with a hammer in Ferguson over the weekend, but there was no outcry about that. Or there was a cop in South Carolina who shot an unarmed 30-year-old man. Yes, the four juveniles were black, the victim white in Ferguson. But there were no protests. The cop in South Carolina black, the victim white. Al Sharpton wasn't seen going there to voice his displeasure.
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