The late John Lewis represented the state of Georgia for over three decades. As a tribute to Lewis’ contributions to the state, and his status as a civil rights leader, Lewis will be named an honorary captain when the Atlanta Falcons take the field in Week 1.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn announced the news Friday, saying the team wanted to recognize the “impact” Lewis had on the United States.
Falcons safety Ricardo Allen spoke about the decision to honor Lewis prior to the team’s game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Allen told ESPN the team felt it was important to celebrate Lewis’ life.
"With everything going on right now in the world, we thought it would be best to start it off with somebody as legendary as John Lewis,'' said Allen, one of the leaders of the team's social justice committee. "He's done so much for one of our biggest things that we want to stay connected with, one of our main topics as a team that we're always hitting on: voting rights and the Voting Act.
"We know John Lewis is a big part and a big reason that [Voting Rights Act] is part of the world today. So to be able to tie that in with our team and be able to do it with such a great man like John Lewis -- someone that I've been blessed enough to go down and do the Selma walk with myself -- you know I was all-in for it with him."
The Falcons will hold a moment of silence for Lewis after the Falcons are introduced. The team will also place a Lewis jersey in a seat at the 50-yard line.
Falcons honored John Lewis after his death
Allen and a number of other NFL athletes met Lewis in 2018, when they walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Lewis led a march over the bridge in 1965, where he and a large crowd were attacked by police officers. Lewis suffered a fractured skull during the attack.
Allen spoke highly of Lewis in June, saying Lewis had “a true dedication to the cause,” according to ESPN.
"With John Lewis, I just see a true dedication to the cause. Even right now, he's not moving as good as he used to because he's an older man, but he's still out there every year marching and letting the world know that this is still important to him."
Following Lewis’ death, Falcons owner Arthur Blank released a statement honoring Lewis. Blank called Lewis, “one of the most courageous people I ever met.”
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