Cleveland Police Demand Apology for NFL Players’ Tamir Rice Shirt

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Andrew Hawkins #16 of the Cleveland Browns walks onto the field while wearing a protest shirt during introductions prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 14, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Having learned nothing from the St. Louis Police Department’s public feud with the St. Louis Rams over their show of solidarity with Ferguson protesters, the Cleveland Police Union is going after the Cleveland Browns for protesting the death of unarmed black men and boys at the hands of police. Before Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins and at least one other player stepped onto the field at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium wearing a shirt that read, “Justice for Tamir Rice - John Crawford.” Rice, who was 12, and Crawford, who was 22, were both killed this fall when Ohio police mistook the airsoft guns they were holding for real weapons.

Though Hawkins removed the shirt before participating in the coin toss, a short time later Jeff Follmer, the Police Patrolman Union president, demanded an apology from the team. He said in a statement issued to WEWS Cleveland:

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.

The Browns responded:

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.

The police union shouldn’t be surprised by the Browns’ response, since earlier this month both the NFL and the Rams said players are allowed to exercise their right to free speech. But why pass up the opportunity to generate a few more negative headlines?