"A call for justice shouldn't offend or disrespect anybody," Hawkins said. "A call for justice shouldn't warrant an apology."
Hawkins wore the T-shirt during pregame introductions of the Browns' 30-0 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. On the front it read: "Justice for Tamir Rice - John Crawford." On the back it read: "The Real Battle of Ohio."
Rice was a 12-year-old boy killed by Cleveland police in November as he was carrying an air gun in a public park; the coroner ruled Rice's death a homicide. Crawford was shot and killed in a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, Ohio, in August as he carried an air gun he found in the store.
The head of the Cleveland Police Union called Hawkins' action "pathetic" and asked for an apology from the Browns.
Hawkins addressed the media without notes for 6 minutes and 11 seconds. He spoke without taking questions, out of consideration, he said, for the "predicament" that the Browns were in. He spoke directly, and as he talked about his 2-year-old son Austin, he spoke emotionally.
"As you all know," Hawkins said, "and it's well documented, I have a 2-year-old little boy. ... That little boy is my entire world. The No. 1 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."
As he spoke, Hawkins' voice broke more and more.
"And my heart was broken for the parents of Tamir [Rice] and John Crawford, knowing they had to live that nightmare of a reality," he said. "So like I said, I made the conscious decision to wear the T-shirt. I felt like my heart was in the right place. I'm at peace with it. And those who disagree with me, this is America. That's the point. Everyone has the right to their First Amendment rights."
Hawkins began by saying justice is "a right that every American should have, and also justice should be the goal for every American."
"Ultimately," he said, "it means fair treatment."
He stressed his T-shirt was not directed at every police officer.
"I utterly respect and appreciate every police office that protects and serves all of us with honesty, integrity and [acts] the right way," he said. "And I don't think those kind of officers should be offended by what I did."
He said his stance was against "wrong individuals doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons to innocent people" and those who should be offended by his shirt are those who "would assume the worst in me without knowing anything about me for reasons I can't control."