Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins stood before his locker, surrounded by dozens of local reporters and delivered an impassioned, straight-from-the-mind speech regarding his decision to wear a t-shirt during pre-game warm-ups on Sunday that was a call for justice in the wake of the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. The shirt was later condemned as being “pathetic” by members of the local policeman’s association.
What follows is the speech in its entirety.
Obviously its’ getting a lot of coverage, which I kind of expected. I’m not going to answer any questions, not any disrespect to [the media] but more out of consideration for the Browns and the predicament that they’re in. I’m going to try and cover all bases so I just ask that you guys get the whole thing and nothing gets misunderstood. I was taught that justice was a right that every American should have, and that justice should be the goal of every American—that’s what makes this country special. To me, justice means that the innocent should be found innocent; those who do wrong should get their due punishment. Ultimately, it means fair treatment. A call for justice shouldn’t offend of 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 in the right way. I don’t think those kind of officers should be offended by what I did.
My mom always taught me my entire life to respect law enforcement. I have family, close friends who are incredible police officers and a I tell them all the time how they are much braver than me for it. My wearing a t-shirt wasn’t a stance against every police officer or every police department. My wearing of the t-shirt was a stance against wrong individuals doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons to innocent people. Unfortunately, my mom also taught me that just as there are good police officers, there are some not-so-good police officers who would assume the worst in me, without knowing anything about me, for reasons I can’t control. And she taught me to be careful and be on the lookout for those not-so-good police officers because they could potentially do me harm, and most times without consequence. Those are the officers who should be offended.
Being a police officer takes bravery. I understand that they’re put in difficult positions and have to make those snap decisions. As a football player I know a little bit about snap decisions, but extremely lesser and on an non-comparative scale because when a police officer makes that decision, its a matter of life or death. And that’s hard—it’s a hard situation to be in. But if the wrong decision is made, based on preconceived notions or the wrong motives, I believe there should be consequence. Because without consequence, naturally, the magnitude of the snap decision is lessened, whether consciously or subconsciously.
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 protect my reputation, especially here in Ohio. By most accounts, I’ve done a solid job of building a good name. Before I made a decision to wear that t-shirt, I understood that I was putting that reputation in jeopardy to some of those people that wouldn’t necessarily agree with my perspective. I understood that there would be some backlash, and that scared me, honestly. But deep down, I felt like it was the right thing to do. And 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. I can’t live with that. God wouldn’t be able to put me where I am today, and as far as I’ve come in life, if I was a coward.
As you all know, and it’s well documented, I have a two-year-old little boy. That same two-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. The number one 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. My heart was broken for the parents of Tamir and John Crawford, knowing they had to live that nightmare of a reality. Like I said, I made the conscious decision to wear the t-shirt. My heart was in the right place. I’m at peace with it. Those who disagree with me: This is America, everyone has their First Amendment rights. Those who support me, I appreciate your support. But at the same time, support the causes and people and the the injustices that you feel strongly about. Stand up for them. Speak up for them. No matter what it is. That’s what America is about. That’s what this country was founded on.