NFL world mourns passing of civil rights icon John Lewis

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A towering figure in the civil rights movement and a guiding light through decades of strife and progress, John Lewis died on Friday. He was 80.

Lewis died following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

A longtime civil rights leader and politician, Lewis was a United States Representative for Georgia's Fifth congressional district from 1987 until his passing. He was the youngest and last survivor the of the Big Six civil rights activists, which was a group led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and had a monumental impact on the civil rights movement.

Among many accolades, honorary degrees and recognition from institutions, Lewis was also bestowed the Presidential Medal of Honor.

As the world mourns, so too did many in the NFL. Here are some of their reactions:

Statement from Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank:

"At the passing of a true American icon, I join his family, the city of Atlanta, the state of Georgia and our country in mourning the loss of my dear friend Congressman John Lewis. Freedom fighter are words that were rightly associated with John all his life. It was one of the great honors of my life to be standing at John's side in 2011 when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his decades of service as a Congressman representing our city and for his heroic courage as one of the 13 original Freedom Riders during the most turbulent years of the civil rights movement. John wore the scars of a brutal 1965 beating he received while leading the history-changing 'Bloody Sunday' march in Selma – to those honored to know him, it was always a reminder that freedom isn't free. John risked his life to end legalized racial segregation and make America a better place for us and future generations. Throughout his 33 years representing Atlanta in Congress, he served as the conscience of that body, reminding us all that democracy is a daily struggle. That's the enduring legacy of one of the most courageous people I ever met. May he rest well and at peace after such a meaningful, purpose-filled life."

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