After perhaps one of the quietest civil rights demonstrations, the Cleveland Browns' Andrew Hawkins has become one of the loudest voices.
Last Sunday, the wide receiver entered the Browns' stadium wearing a black shirt that simply read "Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford III" on the front and "The Real Battle for Ohio" on the back, referencing the 12-year-old Black boy was fatally shot by police at a public park and the 22-year-old Black man who was killed by police in Wal-mart. However, Cleveland police demanded an apology from the athlete.
"It's pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law," Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association President Jeff Follmer said in a statement to Cleveland's ABC affiliate. "They should stick to what they know best on the field. The Cleveland police protect and serve the browns [sic] stadium and the browns [sic] organization owes us an apology."
However, both Hawkins and his team stood by his demonstration.
"We have great respect for the Cleveland Police Department and the work that they do to protect and serve our city," the team's representatives said in a statement. "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."
And in a powerful statement to Cleveland media, Hawkins addressed his critics.
"My wearing of the t-shirt wasn't a stance against every police officer or every police department," Hawkins said. "My wearing of the t-shirt was a stance against wrong individuals doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons to innocent people."
He said that he understood that police officers were tasked with the difficult job of making snap decisions. However, he said that doesn't make them immune to the justice system.
"The number 1 reason to me wearing that t-shirt is the thought of what happened to Tamir Rice happening to my little Austin scares the living hell out of me," he said, as his eyes filled with tears. "I made the conscious decision to wear the t-shirt. I feel like my heart was in the right place. I made peace with it. And those who disagree with me, this is America. That's the point. Those who support me: I appreciate your support. But at the same time, support the causes and the people and the injustices that you feel strongly about. Stand up for them. Speak up for them."