Gathering reporters around his locker Monday, the Cleveland Browns wide receiver explained his decision to wear a shirt that read “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford” before Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Hawkins’ small protest drew criticism from the Cleveland Police Union, which demanded an apology and called it “pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law.”
Hawkins responded to the police union and other critics of his gesture with a long statement, reportedly without notes.
“I was taught that justice was a right that every American should have,” Hawkins told reporters, via ESPN.com. “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 kinds 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.”
Attentive fans might remember Hawkins for pretending to throw his 2-year-old son out of the house for saying Bengals receiver A.J. Green was his favorite player.
“As you know, and it’s well documented, I have a 2-year-old little boy,” Hawkins said, according to ESPN.com. “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 is broken for the parents of Tamir and John Crawford knowing they have to live that nightmare of reality.”
Rice, 12, was shot and killed by a police officer while playing with an air gun at a playground. Crawford, 22, was also shot and killed by police in a Walmart while carrying a toy gun he picked up at the store.
Thumbnail photo via Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images
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