Since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was spotted kneeling during the national anthem during the preseason in protest of the shooting deaths of several African American men by police, the reaction has been strong from both sides.
Players around the league have since joined Kaepernick’s protest and have been sitting, kneeling, locking arms or raising a fist in the air during the anthem.
One player who has not done anything – at least publicly before games – is Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins, who has been passionate about the issue for a few years now.
“I support it,” Hawkins said Thursday afternoon. “It’s not so much about the kneeling as much as it is about the message.”
Hawkins is bothered that there is more focus and outrage over what players are doing during the anthem while the reason that they are actually doing it is getting lost.
“I think people who make it about the gesture are missing the point, rather purposely or out of ignorance,” Hawkins said. “But whatever it is, the message, that’s what’s important. So they have my 100 percent support, because it is an issue. The only way to draw awareness is to draw awareness to it. I can’t remember a protest where everybody was like, ‘Oh, man, that’s an awesome protest’ in the history of America.
“So I think if you listen to the message — if you don’t give a damn about the message, you don’t have to give a damn, that’s also your right, but to make it about the actual protest gesture, whatever it may be, I think that’s small-minded and I think as time goes on you’ll see there’ll be a lot of people that are on the wrong side of history.”
The player protests around the league have not been organized through the NFLPA according to Hawkins, who is the Browns’ lead team representative.
Hawkins has never been shy about speaking up on issues that matter to him, however he would not say if he or his teammates would be joining the protests Sunday in Miami where Dolphins players have participated by kneeling during the anthem before their first 2 games in the wake of 2 more recent shooting deaths in North Carolina and Oklahoma. The Tulsa officer in that shooting has been charged with first-degree manslaughter.
“I have my method of protest, they have their method, everyone has their method,” Hawkins said. “I don’t think me, what I’m going to do is important. it’s about the message. it’s about what the issue is at hand. any conversation about anything else is kind of pointless if it’s not about the message.”
Browns players have discussed the recent police shootings behind closed doors and the concern for social justice is legitimate.
Hawkins drew criticism on Dec. 15, 2014 when he ran slowly out of the tunnel wearing a black t-shirt over his uniform that read: “Justice for Tamir Rice – John Crawford” on the front and “The Real Battle of Ohio” on the back prior to a game against the Cincinnati Bengals to call attention to their shooting deaths by police.
“I feel like I was a little blip on the radar as far as raising awareness about that particular situation,” Hawkins said. “And who knows what that brings into fruition down the line. I think that’s how it works, and the same with Kaepernick. People can say, ‘Oh, he should be doing this, he should be doing that,’ but him raising the awareness, people having the conversation, you don’t know who that’s going to affect. You don’t know what 12-year-old kid is watching Kaepernick and might start asking critical questions about it. He might grow up to be a judge, he might grow up to be a police officer, he might grow up to be anything that could help the situation.
“It’s hard to track progress. All you can do is do what you think is right at the time and let history take its course.”