Legendary Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said a petition to remove his statue outside the team's M&T Bank Stadium doesn't bother him, but he noted his decision to get down on both knees during the national anthem Sunday was a form of prayer, not protest.
CBS Baltimore passed along comments the 13-time NFL Pro Bowl selection made on The Scott Garceau Show on Tuesday about the statue petition.
"It only bothers me if I blatantly did something to gain awareness for myself," Lewis said. "What I did—is for our country. That's why I challenge people."
He added: "You can protest, I'm gonna pray."
Lewis spent his entire professional career with the Ravens after getting selected in the first round of the 1996 draft. He became the organization's emotional leader and played a key role in helping the team win two Super Bowl titles during his tenure.
Eric Moniodis of Hydes, Maryland, started the Change.org petition to remove the Super Bowl XXXV MVP's statue after he knelt during the anthem ahead of the Ravens' matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London.
"I want the Ray Lewis statue at Ravens Stadium removed because of his refusal to stand during the National Anthem," Moniodis wrote. "That song honors our country and our veterans who fought for it. To kneel during it is disrespectful, regardless of what you are protesting. I will not stand for that kind of disrespect towards our country, especially from a legend such as Ray Lewis. You stand for the National Anthem as a solute to those who can't stand because they fought for this land."
The form of protest became a focal point throughout Week 3 of NFL action after polarizing remarks by United States President Donald Trump directed toward players who refused to stand for the anthem.
Lewis told The Scott Garceau Show his actions shouldn't be seen as anything more than showing support for the current group of Ravens.
"I took two knees because I have a First Amendment right just like everybody else. And when I came out of that locker room, I had a choice to make," he said. "And look at my fellow players and I looked at these young guys. I'm not in the protesting business, I'm not into this, whatever Trump wanna say. I'm not into that mess, but if these young boys doing what they doing, then I got to meet them where they are."
Lewis was one of several high-profile individuals to meet with Trump during the transition period when he was still president-elect.
The 42-year-old Florida native said "the Trump comments don't bother me, but they're so out of order" because they're an effort to take a platform away from players who are trying to promote change.