Many NFL fans were surprised to see ex-Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis join his former team on Sunday to kneel with them during the national anthem. Many assumed Lewis, who has criticized Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the anthem to protest racial injustice in the United States, dropped down on both knees to show unity in the face of divisive and incendiary comments made by President Trump about protesters in the NFL.
It turns out that wasn’t the case, however. On Tuesday night, Lewis made clear in a passionate exchange on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” that his decision to join his former team on the field and kneel during the anthem was to “simply honor God in the midst of chaos.”
“You hear people saying, ‘Oh, he took a knee.’ I absolutely did not take a knee,” Lewis said, drawing a sharp line between what Kaepernick and others have done and what he did on Sunday.
He added, referring to the grown men in the NFL, “I’m watching young kids just confused. Everybody confused. Nobody don’t know what they’re talking about. What I’m going to do if I’m going to stand up? If I’m going to grab hands? If I’m going to interlock? What am I going to do? So I walked away … and I didn’t drop on one knee and order the protest … I dropped on two knees.”
Lewis, who has participated in other Black Lives Matter protests, said his prayers during the anthem didn’t have to do with Trump.
“Trump can’t bother me,” he said. “But it’s a brotherhood, and 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 them because that means I’m mad at what Trump said and I ain’t in the league no more.”
Lewis also seemingly contradicted himself, defending his decision to drop on two knees and pray as his constitutional right, but then noted to “make it right,” NFL owners should give players two options during the anthem.
“You can only stand or pray,” he said.
Lewis’s comments quickly grabbed the Internet’s attention, eliciting reactions from the likes of Jemele Hill and others.
Ray Lewis on Inside the NFL: I took two knees in London because I was praying to honor God.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 27, 2017
Good Lord Ray Lewis is stupid. And with all of this grandstanding, he doesn't even understand why Kap took the knee. What a buffoon. https://t.co/Y8IQ3KMoJ0
— April (@ReignOfApril) September 27, 2017
When you're trying to give your boy the lifeline in front of his girl but he's too dense to take it pic.twitter.com/27c3vQahpJ
— Chillin in my Bacta (@AminESPN) September 27, 2017
The negative reactions did not, however, deter Lewis from doubling down on his thoughts on Wednesday when he appeared on Fox Sports 1’s “First Things First,” where he said he asked himself before the anthem, “What would Jesus do at a time of this chaos?”
“I looked at these young babies,” he added, referring to the 53 grown men who make up the Ravens, “and said, ‘I gotta do something that only God will understand.’ ”