Andrew Hawkins the wide receiver will no longer be in Cleveland, but Andrew Hawkins the man will be heard from in the future.
Hawkins is one of those guys who has gone above and beyond when it comes to community and social involvement, and that does not figure to stop when his playing career ends.
“Andrew Hawkins was a great asset to the organization in his three seasons with our team,” vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said. “He was an outstanding example to our young players both on and off the field. The well-intended work he did in the Cleveland community was greatly appreciated and the respect he earned throughout our league for never being afraid to responsibly create an educated dialogue around a societal issue is commendable. I’m not sure where Andrew’s next stop will be but his history shows that whatever he sets his mind to accomplish, success is sure to follow.”
“It’s tough to say goodbye to men like Hawk, that have done everything you’ve asked of them and gone above and beyond when it comes to leadership,” coach Hue Jackson said. “Hawk was a rock for us last season. He kept our locker room together and led by example as he gave everything he had on the field. Our young players are going to be better players and better people because of the time they spent with Andrew Hawkins.”
Hawkins also handled his departure the right way, posting a video on Uninterrupted.com, explaining his thinking and thanking the fans and team.
— UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted) February 27, 2017
Hawkins, who had three touchdowns among his 33 receptions in 2016, was always involved in things bigger than football. His commitment to the Cleveland community included an annual Christmas Takeover when he funded an event for Cleveland-area children, as well as financing a computer lab at a Cleveland school and making donations to city recreation centers and college prep school.
He made national news when he took the field before a 2014 game against the Bengals wearing a shirt that read “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford” on the front and “The real battle of Ohio” on the back. Rice, 12, and Crawford, 22, had been killed by Ohio police in much-discussed circumstances, Rice while he held a toy gun in a Cleveland park, Crawford while holding a toy rifle in a Dayton-area Walmart.
The controversy that ensued led Hawkins to make a personal and passionate statement without notes the day after the game, when he said he would be a coward if he didn’t speak out and that his shirt was a call for justice, which did not warrant an apology because it shouldn’t offend anybody.
In late September, Hawkins brought perspective to the struggles of Josh Gordon, who has missed the past two seasons due to an NFL suspension for violations of the substance abuse policy. Hawkins spoke for the team when he said he was happy Gordon had entered rehab; Hawkins explained that his sister died of a heroin overdose in the summer of 2016.
In November, Hawkins joined Josh McCown and four other NFL players in a visit to the White House and Congress to discuss how their visibility could help improve the relationships between law enforcement and the African-American community. Lions receiver Anquan Boldin arranged the trip.
“The platform we are given is a special one,” Hawkins said at the time, “and I feel like a lot of guys feel that way and they’re trying to use it to the best of our ability.”