The NFL fined Chris Kluwe a few years back for wearing a patch supporting Ray Guy for the Hall of Fame and Jim McMahon a few decades back for mocking the commissioner with a “Rozelle” headband. But with the league failing to punish footballers playing politics last weekend, and the NFL increasingly taking stands on gay marriage, gun control, and other issues seemingly unrelated to the sport, several players felt emboldened to use the field to make small protests on Sunday.
Several players turned their gear into demonstrations of support for Eric Garner, a “loosie” cigarette salesmen killed in an encounter with New York City police in July. The husband and father of six died after pleading “I can’t breathe” with the police after a cop put him in a rear-naked choke hold and brought him to the ground. New York City, which levies a $1.60 tax on cigarette packs atop the Empire State’s $4.35, has been cracking down on the street-corner capitalists in an effort to recoup revenues lost by out-of-state cigarettes sold in the Big Apple. Last week, a grand jury declined to charge the policeman that had employed the choke upon Garner.
Reggie Bush, active on Twitter in backing the “hands up, don’t shoot” Ferguson, Missouri, protestors, wore a homemade “I can’t breathe” t-shirt supporting Garner before Sunday’s Lions win against Tampa Bay. The Associated Press reported Cleveland Browns cornerback Johnson Bademosi also wearing a shirt bearing the same message in marker and Rams guard Davin Joseph writing the words on his cleats for St. Louis’s 24-0 shutout of the Washington Redskins.
At Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, a church group held a “die in” outside the stadium, lying down in the streets to express displeasure with the grand-jury decisions in both the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. Inside the stadium, the Philadelphia Eagles offense held a “die in” against the Seahawks that led to impromptu protests by fans.
Last week, the league declined to fine five Rams players who made the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture during the pregame introductions and a teammate who struck the pose after scoring a touchdown.