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NBA family mourns death of civil rights icon John Lewis

John Lewis, a fearless civil rights leader and longtime US congressman, died on Friday after a battle with cancer. He was 80.

“The NBA Family mourns the passing of Rep. John Lewis, a great American hero and icon of the civil rights movement and the fight for equality who helped galvanize opposition to racial segregation and social injustice,” the league said.

From organizing protests during the Civil Rights Movement to introducing bills in Congress, Lewis spent his life fighting against racism and injustice. He often encouraged people to “speak up and speak out” and get into “good trouble” as a way to move closer towards freedom.

Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders and a chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). On a day known as “Bloody Sunday,” Lewis and hundreds of marchers were brutally attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge while protesting for the right of black people to register and vote.

In Congress, Lewis introduced a bill that called for a massive black history museum in Washington, D.C. After years of perseverance, the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016.

Lewis was a giant in the city of Atlanta, along with civil rights leader and author C.T. Vivian, who also passed away Friday. In a statement, the Atlanta Hawks called Vivian “a distinguished icon whose leadership pushed the United States to greater justice and racial equality for African Americans” and that Lewis “will forever be remembered throughout the city’s peaceful protests to fight racial inequality in the 1960s.”

One of Lewis’ most famous quotes: “You cannot be afraid to speak up and speak out for what you believe. You have to have courage, raw courage.”

NBA players and teams have followed those words by speaking up amid a Black Lives Matter movement that reached an increase in volume this year. Those around the league paid their respect and recognized Lewis as one of the pillars in the fight for justice.