BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s a controversial protest sweeping the NFL right now.
Images seen around the world from the Ravens first-ever game in London, shows Ravens legend Ray Lewis, arm-in-arm with players, on his knees during the national anthem.
Players say taking a knee during the anthem is to bring attention to racial injustice. But in an exclusive interview with WJZ, Ray and his mother explained his actions on the sideline.
“We’re about prayer, not protest,” says Lewis.
Ray spoke to WJZ via Facetime from New York with his brother by his side.
“It’s a bad day when a man is crucified for praying,” says Lewis.
[Jessica Kartalija: “When you look at that picture, Ray, both of you — do you see how people could misinterpret it?”]
“Absolutely not! Absolutely not! All of these brothers that’s praying across the league, you got to look at the league, what we do — we pray!” says Ray.
Text messages sent between Ray and his mom reference his taking two knees and praying.
“I will not apologize for my son on two knees praying. I cannot apologize for that,” says Ray’s mom Sunseria “Buffy” Smith.
But since that game in London, more than 60,000 people have signed an online petition to remove Ray’s statue outside M&T Bank Stadium, which was placed there in 2014 honoring the two-time Super Bowl Champion.
[Jessica Kartalija: “What bothers you the most out of this entire situation — is it the perception that the kneeling gave, is it that people are calling for the removal of the statue, what is it that’s really getting to you?”]
“All this was taken out of proportion. He was not kneeling against, disrespecting our America. I said to Ray, you went down for the team with one knee and two knees for Jesus,” says Buffy Smith.
“Now this is where we come to as a country, to where now you want to remove a monument? A monument means things I’ve already done, not things that I have to do,” says Lewis.
Ray Lewis wanted to share this song that he says inspires him, Bob Marley’s “High Tide or Low Tide.”