On Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” Tuesday night, former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis explained why he dropped to both knees and interlocked arms with wide receiver Mike Wallace and linebacker C.J. Mosley during the U.S. national anthem in London on Sunday.
“I didn’t drop on one knee in order to protest. … I dropped on two knees – both knees – so I can simply honor God in the midst of chaos,” Lewis said on the show.
When asked why his mouth was moving during the national anthem, he said he was praying. “I have First Amendment rights – myself. We got people standing. We got people bowing. We got people don’t even want to respect the flag. If we want to make it right, make it two ways. You can only stand or pray. Haven’t I done that …”
On the show, Lewis took particular issue with former teammate Shannon Sharpe criticizing him for dropping to his knees.
Others questioned Lewis’ demonstration because he posted a selfie video in August delivering a message to Colin Kaepernick about his anthem protest and social justice efforts: “Get back on the football field and let your play speak for itself.”
An online petition asking for the removal of Lewis’ statue outside of M&T Bank Stadium had more than 27,000 people sign as of Wednesday morning.
Kaepernick, as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, was the first NFL player to kneel in protest over racial inequality and police brutality during the 2016 preseason. The quarterback became a free agent this offseason.
More than 200 players protested before Sunday’s NFL games after President Donald Trump on Friday said players — any “son of a bitch” — who kneel ought to be fired. About two dozen Ravens and Jaguars started the demonstrations in London because they played the first game of the day. Three teams, the Steelers, Seahawks and Titans, didn’t appear on the field for the national anthem.
During his debut on “Inside the NFL” earlier this month, Lewis said the Ravens were about to sign Kaepernick, but Kaepernick's girlfriend posted disparaging remarks about Lewis and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.
Lewis started Tuesday night’s show by saying that it was the first time he walked onto a football field and the talk was about something other than football.
Below is a transcript of Lewis’ discussion about kneeling with the Ravens Sunday in London on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” Tuesday night:
James Brown: We all dealt with this topic ad nauseum on Sunday. The pundits everywhere certainly did. Ray brings a very unique perspective to this because, as an ex-player he was overseas there in London – as we’ve already set the stage with how much the conversation was about everything but football – but you seemingly, from the optics, got caught up in this as well, too, because, in fact, you did take a knee when you are allegedly on record as saying that you never would. Talk about that.
Lewis: Actually, two knees.
Brown: And that’s the point.
Lewis: Let’s make sure. You hear people saying “Oh, he took a knee” – absolutely not, did not take a knee. I walked on to the …
Brown: Hold on. Let’s be clear, when you say “you hear people say …”
Lewis: People, you hear people. You hear Shannon Sharpe going out there talking about I dropped on a knee and this is about oh, I sat in the chair next to him and I said I would never do this and I still didn’t do it. I’m watching young kids just confused – everybody confused. Nobody don’t know what they’re talking about. What I’m a do if I’m a stand am I’m a grab hands if I’m a interlock. What am I gonna do? So I walked away, JB, and I didn’t drop on one knee in order to protest. Boomer, I dropped on two knees – both knees – so I can simply honor God in the midst of chaos.
Brown: Ray, now hold on, so you are passionately making this point, which by the way, you were very passionate in our production meeting as well, so put a little bit of context on this. The reason you mention Shannon, meaning Shannon Sharpe your former teammate, why are you mentioning him – what does he have to do with it?
Lewis: He goes out and tells somebody why he’s so disappointed in me.
Brown: In you.
Lewis: Absolutely. First of all, I’m 42 years old with six kids – I’m a grown man. So to be disappointed in me? It really like, sparked me. And now all of these people are going off his sound bite. Of how he’s so shocked that I dropped on a knee to protest. Really? You got my phone number, brother. A friend. A friend? A friend picks up the cell phone and says “Bro, what was your intention? What were you doing?” You saw my mouth move. I asked the Lord …
Brown: Your mouth moving was because?
Lewis: Praying. This makes me ask you a serious question. I have First Amendment rights – myself. We got people standing. We got people bowing. We got people don’t even want to respect the flag. If we want to make it right, make it two ways. You can only stand or pray. Haven’t I done that …
Brown: So you chose to …
Brown: So to be clear about this you didn’t drop on one knee as you said you wouldn’t do because you disagreed with that form of protest but you dropped on two knees …
Lewis: I never will agree with that.
Brown: Mmm-hmm. So you maintain that position.
Lewis: I do too much with the military. I do too much for cops. I do too much meeting with high-level officials trying to fix the problems in these neighborhoods. I do way too much, JB, and I just want to get into this and let everybody understand why, JB. When I was 10 years old, I watched my mother walk up to me with two bloody eyes from being beaten and I couldn’t understand why. And I didn’t have a father. I didn’t have nobody to come and say “Son, it’s all right.” And I saw my mother praying one day. And I said “Mama, why are you praying on your knees?” She said “Son, when you got chaos in your life this is where you go.” And all I knew to do, not just on Sunday, but if you follow my track record you’ve seen me fall on my knees in Denver. You saw me fall on my knees in New England. When I got to New Orleans I fell on my knees. Because my mother taught me what I should do in the mist of chaos. So when a brother attacks me talking I took a knee on my country? I fight for my country. I fight for my country and the only thing I would love to just ask, like I got all these former teammates saying all of this but was you disappointed in me when I walked with Trayvon Martin’s family? I took both of my sons. And I wanted them to see what walking in justice felt like. Because I have lived it. Was you disappointed in me when Mike Brown was killed in St. Louis – I went to St. Louis and gave jobs. Were you disappointed in me then? Shannon were you busy? Were you busy when Trayvon Martin’s family was walking? Because I didn’t see you there. Were you busy when Mike Brown was killed ‘cause I didn’t see you there either. I live black. I’m from the streets. I’ve been doing this 22-plus years … fighting injustice.
Brown: Ray, I’m asking you a very obvious question. So you’re pained to the core that people would question your character and integrity and commitment to this?
Lewis: You can never question it. Boomer, we pray before we come out of the locker room, true or false?
Boomer Esiason: True.
Lewis: Phil, we pray before we come out of the locker room.
Phil Simms: True.
Lewis: So why not pray in full stadiums?
Brown: And that’s what the two knees represent?
Lewis: That’s what the two knees represent. I’m no stand and lock (arms) and protesting ‘cause Trump can’t bother me what he said no matter how bad it was. But it’s a brotherhood that I have to lead young men. They’re watching a leader who once came before them. So what do I do – I can’t grab an arm with ‘em because that means I’m mad at what Trump said. I ain’t in the League no more.
Brown: So you know what, Ray? It’s abundantly clear that we feel passionately, palpably, what you’re feeling about this as well and we were just discussing it with Steven Espinoza of Showtime, that this is a very weighty and emotional issue to say the least. And so many people, unfortunately, are talking past what the issue is and the only effective way to make progress on this is for us to truly listen to one another and, more importantly, to hear what the other person is saying. I hear you, I appreciate your passion and the fact that Boomer and Phil both gave you this platform to speak about what is absolutely on your mind.