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What Ray Lewis statue means to Baltimore

9/4/2014

As soon as the Baltimore Ravens unveiled the Ray Lewis statue on Thursday, there was an immediate backlash on social media trying to knock it down.

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Honoring Lewis with a statue raised eyebrows around the country because of his off-the-field history. Lewis was charged with two counts of murder 14 years ago, but later pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, a misdemeanor.

What he's done since that incident in Atlanta is why the Ravens built a nine-foot sculpture. Lewis is not only the best player in Ravens history, but he put Baltimore back on the football map, helping to bring two Super Bowl titles to the city. He should be immortalized in front of the stadium because he was the heart of the team inside it for nearly two decades.

His ability to chase down running backs and put fear into quarterbacks made Sundays relevant at M&T Bank Stadium. Lewis is arguably the best middle linebacker ever to play the game. He was the leader of what many consider to be the best defense in NFL history.

During the unveiling ceremony, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti referred to Lewis as "the greatest leader in the history of the NFL," and team president Dick Cass called him "a true Baltimore legend." Lewis, who is now an ESPN analyst, means as much to Baltimore as Dan Marino means to Miami, and there is a life-sized statue of the quarterback outside the Dolphins' stadium. It's difficult to think of the Ravens without picturing Lewis, much like the Packers and Vince Lombardi. And there is a statue of him in front of Lambeau Field.

And, if the Ravens are going to have a statue of Johnny Unitas at M&T Bank Stadium, there needs to be one of Lewis. Unitas defined the Colts era in Baltimore, and Lewis does the same for the Ravens.

In Baltimore, Lewis will long be remembered for passion, leadership and championships. The statue celebrates his legacy in this city's football history.