Facing a tide of criticism from angry Ravens fans for his decision to kneel on the field in London last Sunday, Ray Lewis and his mom are pushing back against the call for his bronze statue to come down.
Before the Ravens got pulverized by the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium last Sunday, the team’s greatest defensive alum knelt with several players on the field during the National Anthem. While it appeared Lewis was joining them in protesting systemic racism, he later revealed on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” last week that he had a divine motivation.
“I dropped on two knees – both knees – so I can simply honor God in the midst of chaos,” Lewis said on the show, which aired Tuesday.
But many were already too salty to hear him out. One fan named Eric Moniodis from Baltimore County started an emotionally charged petition calling upon franchise owner Steve Bisciotti to remove Lewis’ hulking bronze statue from outside of M&T Bank Stadium. It’s since received nearly 80,000 signatures.
Upon witnessing the public’s ire, Lewis’ family has come to bat for him. “He was in prayer,” his mother, Suseria Smith, told Fox45 this weekend. “This man texted his mother and said, ‘Mama, I did it. I prayed. This country is in trouble.’”
Lewis also talked with CBS Baltimore via video chat on Friday, seated beside his brother. “We’re about prayer, not protest,” said Lewis. He later added, “It’s a bad day when a man is crucified for praying.”
It was admittedly pretty strange to see Lewis kneeling in social protest after he’d criticized the original kneeler, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, earlier this summer on Twitter in a video where he told him to keep his social protests off the field. He later blamed Kaepernick’s girlfriend for the Ravens’ decision not to sign him as a backup to Joe Flacco, saying her angry tweet comparing Lewis to the slave Stephen and Biscotti to his slave master from “Django Unchained” pushed the Ravens to pass on Kaepernick.
On top of that, Lewis has aligned himself with President Donald Trump during his short presidency so far, taking a meeting with the then-president-elect in December, and offering him a free bottle of his “Ray’s Reserve” bourbon as a congratulatory gift. Trump reignited the ugly public debate about kneeling during the National Anthem a little over a week ago at a rally in Alabama, calling any player who does so a “son of a bitch” who deserves to be fired.
The Ravens beefed up security near the statue last week as the petition spread. Of course, we haven’t heard anything about it being torn down by the masses yesterday, so bronze Ray appears to be safe. As for those fans who swore off their allegiance to the team and burned their jerseys, they don’t seem to be missed. Yesterday’s loss to the rival Pittburgh Steelers drew 71,126 people to M&T Bank Stadium, per ESPN, which is basically a sellout crowd.