A Cleveland police union has demanded that the Cleveland Browns football team apologize for a player who wore a T-shirt before Sunday’s game protesting the police shootings of two black people.
Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins wore a shirt reading “Justice for Tamir Rice And John Crawford III” during pre-game warmups. Rice, who was just 12 years old, died last month after a Cleveland police officer shot him when he mistook the boy’s toy gun for a real weapon. Crawford, 22, was shot dead by police in August at an area Wal-Mart while he was holding an air rifle.
Cleveland Police Patrolman Union President Jeff Follmer sent local TV station WEWS a statement after Sunday’s game that called for an apology from the NFL team.
“It’s pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law,” the statement read, as quoted by WEWS. “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.”
The Browns later issued a statement saying that the organization respects both the work of the Cleveland police department and their own players’ right to protest.
“We have great respect for the Cleveland Police Department and the work that they do to protect and serve our city,” the statement read, as quoted by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. “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.”
The dustup is similar to a mini-feud that arose earlier this month between St. Louis County police and the St. Louis Rams, after some Rams players entered their stadium making the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture popular with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.