The topic of police brutality invades the sports world once again.

Professional athletes have been very vocal in expressing their displeasure with police conduct as of late, along with the rest of the nation. Yesterday, two of Ohio’s NFL teams and division rivals the Cleveland Browns faced off against the Cincinnati Bengals, but prior to kickoff, all eyes were on Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins. The wide out approached the field sporting a t-shirt over his jersey that read “Justice for Tamir Rice – John Crawford” on the front and “The Real Battle of Ohio” on the back. Tamir Rice is the 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was shot dead by police in November after he was seen playing with a toy gun in a local park. His death was ruled a homicide by the coroner.

Similarly, 22-year-old John Crawford was shot and killed by police inside a Beavercreek, Ohio Wal-Mart this past August after he picked an air gun which was sold at the store. Though some might have appreciated Hawkins gesture, the President of the Cleveland police union, Jeff Follmer, took offense and demanded an apology from the Browns organization.

Jeff Follmer:

“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 Cleveland Browns released a statement standing by Hawkins and his freedom of self-expression.

“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 response is strikingly similar to the St. Louis area bar that boycotted its hometown Rams after several approached the field with their hands up, in protest of the Michael Brown shooting in nearby Ferguson.

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