5. Athletes Take a Stand
The nation was torn apart by riots and protests in the aftermath of the Ferguson police shooting of Michael Brown, the chokehold death of Eric Garner, and other incidents between cops and unarmed black men in 2014. It was a tense time for cops and the communities they protect and it reached a tipping point when four St. Louis Rams players made a powerful statement in December when they appeared before a game flashing the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” pose that was associated with the Brown killing. Jared Cook, Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, and Kenny Britt were criticized by the St. Louis Police Officers Association for doing it and some called for them to be disciplined by the league. They never were. “‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ is not just a Ferguson thing,” Cook told reporters afterward. “It’s a worldwide thing. People are doing it in New York. People are doing it in Florida. People are doing it on the West Coast. It’s not just about Ferguson. It’s a message worldwide for young adults that you can protest and you can do things peacefully without getting out of line.”
About a week later, several NBA players including LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Derrick Rose made a statement of their own when they wore “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts during warmups as a tribute to Garner, who died after he was subdued by cops with a chokehold earlier in the year.
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