Whether you’re for or against professional athletes and the use of their platform for social justice matters, rest assured that is of no concern to Cleveland Browns wide receiver, Andrew Hawkins.
On Sunday, December 14th, 2014, Receiver Andrew Hawkins wore a shirt with the message “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford III” on the front, and “The real battle for Ohio” across the back, not only during warm-ups but also player introductions. The Cleveland police had a mouthful for Hawkins, with the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, Jeffrey Follmer, releasing a statement laced with criticism.
“It’s pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law,” Follmer said, “They should stick to what they know best on the field. The Cleveland Police protect and serve the Browns stadium and the Browns organization owes us an apology.”
His statement was to no avail because the Cleveland Browns refused to apologize. The Browns’ vice president of communications, Peter John-Baptiste, released a statement on behalf of the Browns, stating, “We have great respect for the Cleveland Police Department and the work that they do to protect and serve our city,” via Cleveland.com, “We also respect our players’ rights to project their support and bring awareness to issues that are important to them if done so in a responsible manner.”
Not only did the Cleveland Police Department not receive the apology they felt they deserved from the Browns, but Hawkins stood by every word he said, as well as his actions. Despite the backlash that he knew was inevitable, Hawkins also went on to convey his very personal feelings on the matter:
“I’m not an activist, in any way, shape or form. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred I keep my opinions to myself on most matters. I worked extremely hard to build and keep my reputation especially here in Ohio, and by most accounts I’ve done a solid job of decently building a good name. Before I made the decision to wear the t-shirt, I understood I was putting that reputation in jeopardy to some of those people who wouldn’t necessarily agree with my perspective. I understood there was going to be backlash and that scared me, honestly. But deep down I felt like it was the right thing to do. If I was to run away from what I felt in my soul was the right thing to do, that would make me a coward, and I can’t live with that. God wouldn’t be able to put me where I am today, as far as I’ve come in life if I was a coward.
“As you well know, and it’s well documented, I have a 2-year-old little boy,” says Hawkins, “The same 2-year-old little boy that everyone said was cute when I jokingly threw him out of the house earlier this year. That little boy is my entire world. And the No. 1 reason for me wearing the t-shirt was the thought of what happened to Tamir Rice happening to my little Austin scares the living hell out of me. And my heart was broken for the parents of Tamir and John Crawford knowing they had to live that nightmare of a reality. So, like I said, I made the conscious decision to wear the t-shirt. I felt my heart was in the right place. I’m at peace with it.”
Follmer was not moved by these heartfelt words. Claiming that “It’s not a call for justice, they were justified,” and that “Cleveland police officers work with the Cleveland Browns hand-in-hand, and when he disrespects two of our police officers, he disrespects everybody else.”