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NFL won't discipline Rams players for 'Hands up, don't shoot' gesture

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St. Louis police want five Rams players punished for their pre-game gesture on Sunday, but the league is staying out of it.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has denied requests from the St. Louis Police Officers Association to discipline a group of St. Louis Rams players who made the "Hands up, don't shoot" gesture while taking the field on Sunday, according to CNN's Rachel Nichols.

"We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation," NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy said in a statement.

The police association released a statement in which it called for "the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology." The organization was incensed when five Rams players -- Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt, Chris Givens and Jared Cook -- held up their hands in what has become a well-known sign of support for the Ferguson, Mo. community grappling with the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.

"I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights," SLPOA business manager Jeff Roorda is quoted as saying in the release. "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."

The players explained the decision to reporters after the game, saying it was meant as a sign of support for the community, not an indictment of Wilson.

"We wanted to show that we are organized for a great cause and something positive comes out of it," Britt told ESPN's Nick Wagoner. "That's what we hope we can make happen. That's our community. We wanted to let the community know that we support the community."