The Atlanta Falcons are recognizing a legendary civil rights figure with their choice of captains on opening weekend.
The Falcons will name the late activist and former Congressman John Lewis as an honorary captain for Sunday's contest against the Seattle Seahawks, coach Dan Quinn announced Friday.
"That's a big deal in terms of the exposure and the impact Congressman Lewis had not just on Georgia, but on the country overall,'' Quinn said, via ESPN.
Lewis began his activist work at a young age, growing from follower to colleague of Martin Luther King Jr. and participating in lunch counter sit-ins and freedom rides as part of nonviolent, peaceful protests of segregation in the Jim Crow south. He was the youngest speaker at the historic March on Washington in 1963, and encouraged getting in what he called "good trouble" for the betterment of society.
Lewis' journey of activism took him from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to Atlanta city council, and eventually, Washington, D.C., as a United States representative from Georgia's 5th Congressional District. He served in that role for more than three decades.
Falcons captain Ricardo Allen walked the Pettus bridge with Lewis two years ago in commemoration of the event -- a 1965 march for Black voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, that resulted in police beatings broadcast nationally in what became a turning point in the nation's civil rights movement -- and explained the Falcons' rationale Friday.
"With everything going on right now in the world, we thought it would be best to start it off with somebody as legendary as John Lewis,'' Allen said, again via ESPN. "He's done so much for one of our biggest things that we want to stay connected with, one of our main topics as a team that we're always hitting on: voting rights and the Voting Act.
"We know John Lewis is a big part and a big reason that [Voting Rights Act] is part of the world today. So to be able to tie that in with our team and be able to do it with such a great man like John Lewis -- someone that I've been blessed enough to go down and do the Selma walk with myself -- you know I was all in for it with him."
Lewis passed away at the age of 80 in July following a six-month battle with cancer.