Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins took the field before Sunday’s game wearing a shirt calling for justice in the cases of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old killed by police in Cleveland while holding an airsoft gun in a park, and John Crawford, a 22-year-old killed by police near Dayton while holding an air rifle in Walmart.
Almost immediately, the head of Cleveland’s police union responded with a statement:
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.
It was every bit as petty and counterproductive as the screeching statement from St. Louis police a few weeks ago. Then the Browns released a statement supporting both sides. That’s where you might have thought this would end.
But then Hawkins showed up at the Browns facility on Monday and kept the conversation going.
“I was taught that justice is a right that every American should have,” he began. “Also, justice should be the goal of every American. I think that’s what makes this country special. 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.”
And: “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.”
This was unscripted for almost six minutes, and it turned into one of the most impressive interviews you will see all year.
“Being a police officer takes bravery,” he continued. “And 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, obviously on an extremely lesser and non-comparative scale, because when a police officer makes a snap decision, it’s literally a matter of life and death. That’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 decisions is lessened, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
You can read the full transcript of his remarks here.
We’re getting close to the end of the year, and many will remember 2014 for heartbreak and alienation and cynicism that gets deeper by the day. But if that’s the case, we should also remember the millions of people who’ve watched tragedies unfold and fought back by speaking up when they felt voiceless. It’s a reminder that whatever you believe, there are many more good, courageous people than bad people in America.
It’s been a miserable few months for people who pay attention to news in the real world, but listening Andrew Hawkins tell his side of the story might have been one of the most hopeful moments we’ve had all year.