Andrew Hawkins made headlines when he took the field with a shirt protesting the recent shooting of two unarmed Ohioans. The Browns made us proud when they refused a demand from Cleveland cops to apologize. And now that he's explained it, we realize that Hawkins isn't just some athlete who threw on a t-shirt because it's the trendy thing to do. He knows what he's talking about, and he has very good reasons to care.
Hawkins's shirt read "Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford" on the front, and "The Real Battle for Ohio" on the back, but didn't address it on Sunday. But yesterday, Hawkins spoke for six minutes, uninterrupted and without notes, to the assembled media.
Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland has transcribed the whole thing. Some excerpts:
"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.
This is obviously a guy who's thought this through, and more than deserves to be heard. Hawkins when on to cite his two-year-old son, Austin, as the reason he spoke out.
"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. 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."
To put a face on Hawkins's inspiration, and just because he's really freaking cute, here's his son:
And, two weeks later:
Hawkins closed yesterday's comments with this:
"I made the conscious decision to wear the T-shirt. I felt like my heart was in the right place. I'm at peace with it and those that disagree with me, this is America, everyone has the right to their first amendment rights. 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. No matter what it is because that's what America's about and that's what this country was founded on."
You'd be excused if you're feeling a little more encouraged for America this morning because a football player had some smart things to say. And no one would certainly blame you if you wanted to go ahead and start rooting for Andrew Hawkins.