On Sunday, Cleveland Browns WR Andrew Dawkins wore a T-shirt that said “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford.” Those are two Cleveland kids who were shot dead by police officers.
Jeff Folmer, head of the Cleveland Police Union, publicly demanded an apology from Dawkins.
Dawkins’s response was fantastic. It is the best statement I’ve heard yet regarding our country’s recent turmoil over the deaths-by-police-shootings of not only Tamir and John, but also Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the protests that have followed.
Please watch it. It’s a nearly seven-minute clip, but it’s worth every second.
I’ve had a hard time finding the right words, a hard time saying anything to anybody, about all of these issues, for a variety of reasons. I’ve also felt bad for that, because I have black family members and black friends, and I’ve seen their struggle, and it makes my stomach hurt.
That clip pretty much says what I feel.
Here is Andrew Dawkins’ statement, transcribed, in full:
“I was taught that justice is, you know, a right that ever American should have. Also, justice should be the goal of every American. I think that’s what makes this country special. And to me, justice means that 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. 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. My mom has taught me my entire life to respect law enforcement. I have family, close friends, who are incredible police officers, and I tell them all the time how they are much braver than I am for it.
So, my wearing the t-shirt wasn’t a stance against every police officer or every police department. My wearing 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 not so good police officers that 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 to 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 that should be offended.
Being a police officer takes bravery. And I understand that they are put in difficult positions, and they 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 or death. And that’s hard. That’s a hard situation to be in. But if a wrong decision is made based on preconceived notions or the wrong motives, I believe there should be consequences. Without consequence, naturally, the magnitude of the snap decision is lessened, whether consciously or unconsciously.
I’m not an activist, in any shape or form. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I keep my opinions to myself, on most matters. I work extremely hard to build and protect my reputation, especially here in Ohio, and by most accounts, I’ve done a solid job of decently building a good name. Before I made the decision to wear the t-shirt, I understood that I was putting that reputation in jeopardy to some of those people who wouldn’t necessarily agree with my perspective. I understood that there was going to be 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, and 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 been documented, I have a two-year-old boy. The same two-year-old little boy that everyone said was cute when I jokingly threw him out of the house earlier this year. And that little boy is my entire world. And 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. And my heart was broken for the parents of Tamir and John Crawford, knowing they had to live that nightmare in reality. So like I said, I made the conscious decision to wear the t-shirt. I felt my heart was in the right place. I’m at peace with it. And those who disagree with me, I — this is America. That’s the point. Everyone has a right to their First Amendment rights. Those who support me, I appreciate your support. But at the same time, support the causes, and the people, and the injustices that you feel strongly about. Stand up for them. Speak up for them. No matter what it is, because that’s what America is about, and that’s what this country was founded on.”