By Jessica Kartalija

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.

RELATED: Ray Lewis On 105.7 The Fan: ‘I’m Not In The Protesting Business,’ Calls For Prayer

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.”

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Comments (6)
  1. Had he been behind or in front of the team, I might have believed him, but to be arm and with them he was joining with the team. I do believe this more about removal of the statue.

  2. Baltimore Fans and Art Modell supported your Sorry Ass during your Atlanta Murder Fiasco..You went on to make Millions…You didn,t deserve Our Support then and your Ungrateful Ass doesn,t deserve our support now..And you certainly don,t deserve a statue to honor your Un American..Un Patriotic Act in England ! I and over 60,000 Fans want the statue removed ! It Offends The Fans of Baltimore…Are you Seeing/Hearing us now Balto.Ravens? This is not over for we are Boycotting The Ravens and any other Sports League that Disrepects American Patriotic Values…Chuck Offenbacker……Former Diehard Raven Fan………

  3. Kneel in Church not on the field during the Anthem, I don’t believe you and its a disgrace. Kneel over a grave in Arlington and thank the soldier. I will not watch any football the linking arms is just as bad

  4. Joe Weissner says:

    Ray you have disgraced the fans of Baltimore, the flag of the United States and every service member who has fought under that flag. You then have to stoop so low that you have to use your mother to try and defend you, I thought you were more of a man than this !

  5. Myra Keel says:

    There is no indications that any of the individuals who have commented are Ravens fans or even from Baltimore. This has been an excuse for bigots to pretend they care about what is happening with the Ravens. Kneeling in prayer can be done anywhere. Some comments made sound like people from other countries where there is no free speech or freedoms. The question is whether this country has lived up to making sure that everyone has freedom. Did the soldiers fight terrorist who deny freedom for those in their country for a country that denies freedoms to their own people. Standing up for the flag may be an outward display of so called patriotism, but how do those standing treat others that don’t look like them. That is phony patriotism if you deny rights to those living in your own country.

  6. Ray Lewis is and was a PUNK. He claimed he didn’t participate in the fight that led up to the murder. PUNK!! And now he has to get his mama to come to his rescue. What kind of grown ass man has his mama speak up for him?? A PUNK that is who!!! Ray deserves all the attacks that are coming his way. He though he could “buck dance” his way into the hearts of white folks in Baltimore. Now he sees that they will come at you when you attack their interests.

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