When Cleveland Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins wore a "Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford" shirt during warm-ups before Sunday's game against the Bengals, he joined a growing trend of athletes speaking out against police brutality. When Cleveland police union president Jeff Follmer demanded an apology, calling the T-shirt "pathetic," he, too, joined police across the country in outrage over what they view as undeserved attacks.
Hawkins refused to issue an apology. Instead, when he addressed the media on Monday, he doubled-down on his message.
"I was taught that justice is a right that every American should have," he said. "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."
On Nov. 22, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by a rookie cop who had arrived at the scene after hearing reports that a child was wielding a gun. The cop, later revealed to be emotionally unstable, shot Rice less than two seconds after pulling up next to the boy. Rice was holding a toy pellet gun. John Crawford III was fatally shot at an Ohio Wal-Mart on Aug. 5 by police because he was holding a toy rifle he had taken from a store shelf. A grand jury has decided not to indict the officer responsible for shooting him.
Tearing up, Hawkins spoke about his fear that his 2-year-old son may someday face a similar fate: "That little boy is my world," he said. "My No. 1 reason for wearing the T-shirt was the thought of what happened to Tamir Rice happening to my little Austin. And that scares the living hell out of me."
Watch the full statement below.