The Hug in Portland and Hands Up in the NFL


Written by Jack Blocker
01 Monday 01st December 2014

But like you, I'm well aware of the warring opinions that have been colliding since Wilson was cleared. While some accept the police officer's innocence, the loudest voices have condemned the ruling as proof of America's disregard for the lives of black people. And most of those voices have been heard in global protests.

At one of these protests last week, a photographer captured a rare scene. A young black boy, Devonte Hart, in a tearful embrace with a policeman (see above). It's been coined the 'hug shared round the world', because the internet got bloody emosh when they saw it. It represents hope for humanity, faith being restored and love in its quintessence. Will this solitary moment ring in the change America needs? Nah, but it is a nice distraction from the awful realities some face in the USA. 

The fact is, the pic may be worth a RT - and Devonte's own story is remarkable - but it won't reverse the injustice felt by the parents who lost their kid, or reassure the millions of other parents who reckon their kids are in the cross-hairs of 'Murica's police departments. One of those parents is Kenny Britt, an American Football player for the St. Louis Rams:

Damn son, veins lyk hosepipes #mirin 

On Sunday, Kenny and some teammates agreed to participate in the rarest sporting spectacle known to athletes: A political protest. When they walked on to the field, they raised their hands in solidarity with Mike Brown:

It's not exactly Emily Davison being trampled by a horse, but it's a bold statement nonetheless.

If the cop who hugged Devonte slightly improved the image of law enforcement, then the spokesman for the St. Louis police did his best to shit all over it by slamming Britt and his pals for the hometown team's stunt.

The SLPOA is calling for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology. Roorda said he planned to speak to the NFL and the Rams to voice his organization's displeasure tomorrow. He also plans to reach out to other police organizations in St. Louis and around the country to enlist their input on what the appropriate response from law enforcement should be. Roorda warned, "I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights. Well I've got news for people who think that way, cops have first amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours. I'd remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser's products. It's cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it's not the NFL and the Rams, then it'll be cops and their supporters."

Granted, most modern day athletes aren't known for making strides into political actitivism, so maybe the shock was too acute for him to pen a rational response. But for Roorda to invoke his department's first amendment rights because the players exercised their own shows he has no clue what they actually guarantee. The right not to buy a Kenny Britt jersey? To not watch the Rams? When these are the people charged with upholding the rule of law, you do begin to worry.

Both images are powerful, and it isn't crazy to say they'll turn an opinion of two. But eventually, these gestures that 'restore faith in humanity' and the messages of solidarity will lessen, as will the hashtags and protests. The only thing left will be the folks going through the rigmarole of enacting real, legislative change in America - the sort of stuff that requires lifelong commitment and tireless campaigning. So good luck to all those people, let's hope the foundation laid by these recent events is one they can build on.

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