Before his team’s game this Sunday, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins wore a T-shirt (pictured above) calling for justice in the cases of Tamir Rice and John Crawford, two Ohio residents who were killed by police this year while carrying replica-style air guns. A representative of Cleveland police officers subsequently called Hawkins’ protest “pathetic” and said the Browns should apologize. Hawkins was asked about the controversy on Monday, and his response was refreshingly firm but even-handed (excerpt of his remarks courtesy ESPN Cleveland’s transcript):
“I was taught that justice is a right that every American should have. Also justice should be the goal of every American. I think that’s what makes this country. To me, justice means the innocent should be found innocent. It means that those who do wrong should get their due punishment. Ultimately, it means fair treatment. So a call for justice shouldn’t offend or disrespect anybody. A call for justice shouldn’t warrant an apology.
“To clarify, I utterly respect and appreciate every police officer that protects and serves all of us with honesty, integrity and the right way. And I don’t think those kind of officers should be offended by what I did. My mom taught me my entire life to respect law enforcement. I have family, close friends that are incredible police officers and I tell them all the time how they are much braver than me for it. So my wearing a T-shirt wasn’t a stance against every police officer or every police department. My wearing the T-shirt was a stance against wrong individuals doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons to innocent people.”
In addition to playing in Cleveland, Hawkins—a Pennsylvania native—attended college at the University of Toledo.