Members of the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Soccer mourned the passing of civil rights leader and long-time United States congressman Rep. John Lewis, who died Friday of pancreatic cancer. He was 80.
Lewis sustained a fractured skull by an Alabama state trooper on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma during a march for voting rights to Montgomery, Ala. He was the last surviving speaker from the March on Washington in 1963.
“The NBA Family mourns the passing of Rep. John Lewis, a great American hero and icon of the civil rights movement and the fight for equality who helped galvanize opposition to racial segregation and social injustice,” the league said.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also issued a statement on behalf his league.
“The National Football League mourns the loss of an American hero and icon, Congressman John Lewis,” the NFL said in a statement on Saturday. “Congressman Lewis devoted his life to advancing the causes of freedom, justice and equality for all. His leadership and courage helped to transform our nation, making it more just. We extend our condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and constituents and join them in celebrating his full life, his storied journey, and his unparalleled legacy.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady was quick to share his condolences over social media.
“An example of true leadership. Rest In Peace to an American hero,” Brady said.
Los Angeles Lakers standout LeBron James joined many other NBA stars who took to social media to pay their respects.
“Rest. In. Paradise John Lewis. #CivilRightsICON THANK YOU!!” James wrote on Twitter.
Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul, who is the NBPA president, tweeted the following: “Thank you for keeping the dream alive all these years and paving the way for us.”
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers reflected on Lewis’ life spent fighting for civil rights, equal justice and freedom on Saturday afternoon.
“Really sad day for our country,” Rivers said, per ESPN. “What is amazing is when you think of right now, some of the stuff that John Lewis was fighting for, we’re still fighting for. Voter suppression right now is at an all-time high.
“It’s amazing how hard, we have a group of people who are trying to get people not to vote. Latinos, Blacks and young people are the targets. That’s what they are trying to get not to vote. It’s amazing when you think about how long ago that was and yet we are still fighting that fight.”
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank offered the following statement on his dear friend.
“At the passing of a true American icon, I join his family, the city of Atlanta, the state of Georgia and our country in mourning the loss of my dear friend Congressman John Lewis,” the statement read. “Freedom fighter are words that were rightly associated with John all his life.
“It was one of the great honors of my life to be standing at John’s side in 2011 when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his decades of service as a Congressman representing our city and for his heroic courage as one of the 13 original Freedom Riders during the most turbulent years of the civil rights movement. John wore the scars of a brutal 1965 beating he received while leading the history-changing ‘Bloody Sunday’ march in Selma – to those honored to know him, it was always a reminder that freedom isn’t free. John risked his life to end legalized racial segregation and make America a better place for us and future generations. Throughout his 33 years representing Atlanta in Congress, he served as the conscience of that body, reminding us all that democracy is a daily struggle. That’s the enduring legacy of one of the most courageous people I ever met. May he rest well and at peace after such a meaningful, purpose-filled life.”
The Atlanta Hawks on Saturday also issued a statement on Lewis.
“The Atlanta Hawks mourn the loss of Congressman John Lewis. Last night, our city and country lost one of its heroes and most important civil rights icons who was highly regarded for his nearly six decades of social activism and getting into ‘good trouble,” the statement read. “He continued to inspire so many with his courage, sacrifice and unwavering dedication to the highest ethical standards and moral principles. His legacy will forever be remembered throughout the city’s peaceful protests to fight racial inequality in the 1960s, and our nation will be forever indebted to him for his lifelong dedication to public service.
“The entire Hawks organization sends their deepest condolences to Mr. Lewis’ family and his friends.”
Hockey Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree, who was the first Black player in the NHL, admitted he was awestruck when standing next to Lewis prior to a game in Washington on Feb. 26, 2019.
“Just standing there beside him, just to be there and to talk to him, made a big impact on me,” O’Ree said Saturday. “I’m so happy I was able to be there in his presence and give him a hug, shake hands with him and watch a hockey game.”
The NHL Players Association shared a picture on Twitter of Lewis clad in a Capitals jersey with the following statement:
“RIP John Robert Lewis – a civil rights leader whose ongoing activism to eradicate racism will be greatly missed in the United States and around the world. #GoodTrouble”
Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore of the MLS also offered his condolences over social media.
“RIP to the great John Lewis,” he wrote. “We’re all forever deeply indebted to you. An icon and leader who fought for us all. A true pioneer for change and a Hero.”
–Field Level Media