Professional athletes are often discouraged from participating in political conversations or social movements — especially in Washington, where political-correctness is at a premium.
Some, however, feel so strongly about a cause that they decide to speak up all the same, using their platforms as athletes to better promote a message.
Such was the case Sunday with Redskins defensive lineman Chris Baker, who raised both hands in the air after recording a sack midway through the third quarter, a gesture associated with protests following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. In each case, a grand jury declined to indict the white police officer who killed an unarmed African-American male.
Baker had previously voiced his strong opinions about the two cases on Twitter, and he returned to the social media site after Sunday’s game to clarify that his gesture was intentional.
“Hands Up Don’t Shoot,” Baker tweeted with a photo of himself raising his hands during the game. “#BLACKLIVESMATTER #nojustice #RIP #MICHAELBROWN #ERICGARNER #TIME4ACHANGE”
On Monday morning, Baker was further asked about why he felt comfortable making such a statement during Washington’s 24-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams.
“Well you know, I’m comfortable with what I believe in,” Baker said. “If I believe in something and I feel strongly about it, I’m going to show it or voice it. I had a strong opinion about wanting justice for all people — not just African Americans. It just so happens every time you turn on the news, there’s been a lot of times when it’s an African American getting killed by either a white cop or a white person. And nothing’s happening, you know? It just seems to be like a never-ending story that just keeps happening, and nothing’s being resolved.”
Last week, four Rams players made the same “Hands up, don’t shoot” gesture as they took the field for a game against the Oakland Raiders. Several Redskins players also made the gesture before Washington’s preseason game against the Cleveland Browns on Aug. 18.
“You just want to see justice at some point,” Baker said. “I’ve been in different situations growing up as a minority and going through the court system. I can understand how the court system can be against us sometimes as African Americans. … I don’t know if what happened was right, if the officer was right for killing him. At least you [should] have a trial to see if it was right or wrong. All you want is just justice and fairness.”