The politicization of professional sports continues in Ohio with the Cleveland Browns refusing to apologize to a Cleveland police officers union after wide receiver Andrew Hawkins appeared on the field with a “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford” shirt on Sunday.
After taking the field with the shirt, the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association immediately called for an apology for Hawkins’ stunt.
“It’s pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law,” Union President Jeff Follmer said. “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.”
Hawkins wore the shirt over his uniform as he exited the tunnel, but not during the game.
In a statement, the Browns refused to apologize to police saying they “respected” Hawkins’ freedom of speech.
We have great respect for the Cleveland Police Department and the work that they do to protect and serve our city. 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.
This isn’t the first time a player in professional sports has used the game as a platform to attack police and make political statements.
In basketball, for instance, NBA players LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Derrick Rose have all worn shirts with messages of support for New Yorker Eric Garner, a “loosie” cigarette salesman who died in an altercation with police.
Five players from the St. Louis Rams also took the field early in December performing the “hands up” gesture in support of rioters in Ferguson. Police officials in St. Louis also called for the team to apologize in that instance, but to no avail.
Despite that these uniform alterations and political statements appear to be a violations of league rules, the NFL has refused to punish players for using the game to promulgate political statements.
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