Ray Lewis said he recently called and spoke with the family of George Floyd, whose brutal death has led to sleepless nights for Lewis.
During his 17-year career, teammates learned to expect words of inspiration from the Hall of Fame linebacker during his fiery speeches. But it has been difficult for Lewis to deal with the senseless nature of Floyd's death that has sparked nationwide protests.
During a virtual interview with University of Maryland, Baltimore Interim President Dr. Bruce Jarrell, Lewis said he called Floyd's family to offer support and comfort. But Lewis is having trouble finding comfort himself, and during portions of the interview there were tears in his eyes.
"This one here has bothered me from a different place," Lewis said. "I've had sleepless nights because I think when you think about what's happening, the thing I fear the most is our kids are experiencing things that even our parents can't explain to them.
"People are just frustrated of injustice. The color of your skin should not define who you are or what you do in life. Our only way out of this is through love. We have to feel each other again. We have to love each other again. The question is: How do we replace all the pain, hurt, confusion, and injustice with love, hope, communication and integrity?"
Lewis answered questions from listeners during the segment. He shared a story of being approached by a man who was upset with something Lewis had said. Lewis invited the man to sit down at his table, which led to a long conversation with other patrons in the restaurant joining in. It was an example of communication being a bridge to better understanding.
Floyd died May 25 after being arrested by ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and there has been intense dialogue about social injustice, police brutality and racial inequality since Floyd's death.Lewis hopes the increased conversation will fuel long-lasting changes in society that will ease the pain being felt by so many.
"It's therapeutic to get that pain out," Lewis said. "When you turn that pain into an open dialogue, you start to see change. Eventually, that pain becomes a vision. Then, that vision becomes a mission. That mission becomes your purpose. And that purpose becomes your destiny."