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Ray Lewis Skips ESPN Draft Coverage ‘To Help the City I Love’

Jameis Winston wasn’t the only controversial football player to skip the 2015 NFL Draft in Chicago.

Ray Lewis stayed home, too—in Baltimore.

ESPN’s Chris Berman announced that his colleague had skipped the 80th NFL Player Selection Meeting for something “much more important than this.”

The linebacker, tried and acquitted for double murder in 2000, remained in his adopted hometown of Baltimore to, in Berman’s words, “quell a very serious situation.”

Boomer referred, of course, to the violence, looting, fires, and destruction of property that has engulfed Baltimore in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, an area drug dealer who died a week after his April 12 arrest. Activists suspect police brutality; a fellow prisoner says, according to the Washington Post, that Gray attempted to hurt himself in the van transporting them.

“No way, no way, no way can this happen in our city,” Lewis, in pregame speech mode, passionately exhorted the youth of Baltimore. “No. Young kids you got to understand something, get off the streets. Violence is not the answer. Violence has never been the answer.”

Lewis visited Matthew A. Henson Elementary School in West Baltimore on Thursday along with a couple dozen of current and former Baltimore Ravens players. The athletes brought a message of peace and reconciliation to the students.

“I felt that it was more important for me to stay in Baltimore and try to help the city I love,” the future Hall of Famer maintained in a statement released by ESPN. “I greatly appreciate ESPN’s understanding and flexibility at this late date. I did not feel right leaving the city at this time.”

“We applaud him,” Chris Berman said live on Thursday night’s broadcast. “We applaud all those citizens in Baltimore trying to make things right.”

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