Within hours of Cleveland Browns player Andrew Hawkins coming out to his pre-game warm up with a T-shirt stating "Justice for Tamir Rice & John Crawford," Jeff Follman, president of the Cleveland Police Union, issued a statement so incendiary that it was hard to believe. Speaking to the local Cleveland ABC affiliate, Follman said:
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.
Follman, speaking to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer
, went on to say:
He's an athlete. He's someone with no facts of the case whatsoever. He's disrespecting the police on a job that we had to do and make a split-second decision. He should stick to playing football and let us worry about law enforcement. The players don't know what our job entails. Don't judge us by what you're reading in the media.
Let's dissect these statements line by line.
"It's pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law."
First off, wearing a T-shirt stating "Justice for Tamir Rice & John Crawford" isn't a declaration of knowing the law as much as it is a statement of support and solidarity for two families who lost cherished loved ones. Tamir was his mother's youngest son and John was a young father of two, a beloved boyfriend, and the only son of his parents as well. Neither Tamir or John broke the law but both paid the harshest price possible at the hands of police.
Secondly, Andrew Hawkins, the player who wore the shirt, is an educated man who went to college for four years in Ohio, and played several seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals before moving up north to play for the Browns. The inference here is that Andrew, and other athletes, are somehow unable to know the law, that it is beyond their comprehension and that they are pathetic for thinking otherwise. In essence, Follman made it clear that he felt he was superior to NFL athletes from the very first words he uttered.
Lastly, why did Follman use the word pathetic in his statement to the press except to enflame tensions and be insulting?
"They should stick to what they know best on the field."
Again, another unnecessary insult from Follman in which he basically states that athletes are one-dimensional humans who should shut up and play ball. Mind you, again, that Hawkins wore a very tame T-shirt showing solidarity with the family. It didn't say "Fuck the police" or "Cop Killer" on it, but just had the names of two young victims of police violence. It's hard not to hear racial undertones when a white man in authority tells a black man who stood up to stick to the field.
What Follman is also completely failing to understand is that African Americans have reluctantly become experts at all things related to police violence, ranging from how to avoid it, how to record and report it, and where it's happening all over the country. Fifteen years ago most African Americans could only name one victim of police violence—Rodney King—but today that list is long and backed my narrative details.
"The Cleveland Police protect and serve the Browns stadium and the Browns organization owes us an apology."
First off, they are paid to do this. The police work for the Browns and for the people and are paid to do it. Working for the Browns is a privilege and doesn't mean that the team or the players, because they've hired the Cleveland Police to do security, somehow then forfeit their right to stand up against injustice.
Secondly, the Cleveland Police Department was just cited for widespread abuse in a report from the Justice Department and is having oversight placed on it as a result. This is, sadly, the second time in 10 years they've been faced with such a designation.
Lastly, Timothy Loehman, the officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice, should've never been hired by the Cleveland PD in the first place. His performance records suggested he was never fit for duty.
Now, let's deal with one final statement made by Follman because it's an increasingly common refrain made not only by police but by their sympathizers.
"He's someone with no facts of the case whatsoever."
Whether Follman was speaking about the shooting death of Tamir Rice or John Crawford, the bottom line is this: scores and scores of facts are known. This notion that Hawkins or the public have "no facts of the case whatsoever" is ludicrous.
Every detail in the shooting death of John Crawford has been released and his death was filmed on security camera.
Regarding Tamir Rice, we see him shot and killed within two seconds of the police pulling up. We've heard the 911 call that stated the gun was probably a fake and Tamir looked like a kid. We've learned that Timothy Loehman was unfit to be an officer. We learned that they left Tamir there to die and put his sister in handcuffs.
To say that no facts are known is bullshit personified. It's precisely because so many awful facts are known that Andrew Hawkins felt the need to wear that T-shirt in the first place. It's precisely because so many awful facts are known about the Cleveland Police Department that men like him and protestors all over the country and the world feel like they must speak out and speak up for justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford.
A 12-year-old boy and a young father were killed in Ohio by police. Neither were breaking laws when they were killed. Everything about their deaths is tragic. Their families are grieving and the community is outraged. Instead of showing a level of support or shared grief, what the Cleveland Police Department has shown is that they don't really have any true remorse whatsoever. By attempting to publicly shame Andrew Hawkins for standing with these families, what the police union has actually done is show its true colors.
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