TAMPA, FL – NOVEMBER 11: ESPN Monday Night Football commentator Ray Lewis is on a sideline television set before the Miami Dolphins play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers November 11, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker and current ESPN NFL analyst Ray Lewis is bowing out of the network’s coverage of the NFL Draft this week because of the current rioting and violence in Baltimore.

“I felt that it was more important for me to stay in Baltimore and try to help the city I love,” Lewis said in a statement issued through ESPN. “I greatly appreciate ESPN’s understanding and flexibility at this late date. I did not feel right leaving the city at this time.”

As mentioned in the tweet above, Louis Riddick will replace Lewis on ESPN’s NFL Draft set. The former pro scout and personnel director has been a part of the network’s NFL coverage since 2013, regularly appearing on NFL Insiders, NFL Live, SportsCenter and ESPN Radio programming.

Given Lewis’ connection to Baltimore, ESPN is supportive of the decision.

“Few athletes are as connected to a city as Ray is to Baltimore, having played his entire career there and based on all the work he has done in that community,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Seth Markman said in the network’s press release. “While we will miss him at the draft, we completely support him in this decision and we hope his involvement will help resolve the situation there.”

Earlier Tuesday, Lewis posted a video to his Facebook page, passionately imploring those young people rioting to “get off the streets” and “stop the violence.”

“You have no right to do what you’re doing to this city,” Lewis said in the video. “Too many hard-working people built this city. We built this city together, we put this city on our back.

“Too many babies are paying attention to this craziness,” he continued. “And the sad part is, we got young kids trying to tell us how they’re going to dictate our city. That won’t happen.”

Lewis ended his remarks by saying, “Whatever I gotta do, it will not happen on our clock.”

Obviously, by staying in Baltimore rather than going to Chicago for the NFL Draft, Lewis is serious about doing whatever he can to help stop the ongoing unrest in the city and showing how important it is to stay and stand up for what’s right, rather than leave for comparatively frivolous considerations like doing television.

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.

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