Pro Football Player Andrew Hawkins Defends His Protest Against Police Violence

The head of Cleveland's police union called him "pathetic," but the Browns receiver isn't backing down.
Dec 16, 2014·
Nicole Pasulka is a writer and reporter who lives in New York City. She has written for Mother Jones, BuzzFeed, The Believer, and the New York Observer.

"Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford," read the t-shirt worn by Cleveland Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins as he warmed up for Sunday's game.

Tamir Rice was a black 12-year-old who was killed by Cleveland police for holding a toy gun on a playground last month. John Crawford III was a black 22-year-old who police shot and killed for holding a BB gun in a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio.

Hawkins is one of several professional athletes to publicly wear t-shirts protesting police violence. After the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner with a banned choke hold maneuver was not indicted, Lebron James and Kobe Bryant both wore shirts that said, "I can't breathe," Garner's last words. On Monday Hawkins elaborated eloquently on why he wore the shirt and what the call for justice means to him.

"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," Hawkins said referring to the t-shirt.

After Hawkins wore the shirt, the president of the local police union lashed out in a statement saying, "It's pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law. 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."

The Browns and Hawkins refused to apologize for the move.

"My wearing a T-shirt wasn't a stance against every police officer or every police department," Hawkins said at the press conference. "My wearing the T-shirt was a stance against wrong individuals doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons to innocent people."