By Ray Boyd

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Whether you personally agree with Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt’s decision to support the protesters in Ferguson, Mo, the five players deserve respect and credit for what they did on that football field in St. Louis this past Sunday.

When the five players decided to take the field with their hands up, they joined a long line of socially conscious athletes, who may have been vilified in the moment, but were willing and brave enough to use their platform to voice their opinion.

I personally prescribe to the mindset that no athlete should be forced to use their platform or professional realm to voice their opinion on social issues, but I applaud those who choose to do so.

Since the incident on Sunday, people have criticized the five players saying that the football field is no place for such expression and that the players should essentially just be quiet and play football.

This attitude, if nothing else, is downright dangerous, especially in a country built on the yearning for freedom of expression.

LISTEN: Sports Beyond Measure‘s Ray Boyd and Vince Quinn discuss the Rams’ protest in light of the incidents in Ferguson

Society does not seem to take issue with NFL players when they openly support societal causes on the field like breast cancer, the military and children’s health, all things that are almost mandated by the NFL.

The opposition only seems to arise when players express themselves in a way that a pocket of society is uncomfortable with accepting.

The opposing views of some of the viewing public was one thing. That group of society may not necessarily make up the majority of people as the few are often the ones heard the loudest.

What was unsettling was the response of law enforcement in St. Louis County who called for a fine for the players and an apology from the Rams. Their argument was that the “hands up, don’t shoot,” gesture made by the Rams supported the rioters in Ferguson and was disrespectful to the law enforcement officials that protect the Rams when they play at home on Sundays.

It was blatantly irresponsible for law enforcement officials to continue that type of narrative. The gesture of passively raising your hands is to show solidarity for the non-violent protesters that are peacefully exercising their rights. There is a major distinction between a rioter and a protester and that seems like a distinction that law enforcement officials were quite comfortable with ignoring.

Luckily, a fine was not levied and an apology was not given.

Muhammad Ali used his platform to work tirelessly for causes he believed in. Billie Jean King used her status as one of tennis’ greats to champion women and LGBT rights. U.S. Olympians John Carlos and Tommie Smith used their moment at the podium during the 1968 Olympics to raise their fists in support of a push for equality in a nation that had a long way to go in that regard.

Those five Rams players may receive some criticism for what they did last Sunday, but they are supported as well. Their gesture joins a long line of socially conscious moments in sports that they should be glad to join.

The Sports Beyond Measure Podcast is a weekly sports podcast that delivers a fun perspective on the latest headlines in Philadelphia local and professional sports. The series is hosted by 94 WIP’s Vince Quinn, Ray Boyd and Eric “Turtle” Golden.

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