Damien Lewis has an infectious energy and vivacious spirit that can’t be tamed. When he walks in, he lights up the room.
But on Wednesday, the Seattle Seahawks third-round pick had a more somber tone when describing the name he hopes to wear in Week 2 as the Seahawks honor victims of police brutality and systemic racism with helmet decals.
That’s because it’s personal to him.
“I’ll probably do my girlfriend, her father,” Lewis said. “He got shot 11 times in Chicago, so I’ll probably go with him.”
Lewis revealed his girlfriend's father, Andrew Sledd, was a victim of police brutality. She was just a toddler when the incident occurred.
When the two began dating, Savannah revealed to Lewis that she watched her Black father being shot by Chicago police officers and left for dead. It was later determined that police went to Sledd's home with a search warrant that named another man as the occupant.
“They had the wrong guy,” Lewis said. “They were looking for the wrong guy, and they ran in the house, and they ended up shooting while the kids were there, and he was there...
According to Selena Hill of Black Enterprise, the near-fatal incident occurred on March 31, 1989 inside Sledd’s home in Hyde Park, Chicago. The shooting left Sledd, who was attending St. Xavier College on a basketball scholarship, permanently handicapped at 23.
“He was getting ready to work the night shift [when he] heard a loud banging on the door,” Chloe Cheyenne Sledd-Rogers told Black Enterprise. “He went to go see what it was and by the time he got there, the door was already off its hinges and a group of plainclothes Chicago police officers began to raid my grandmother’s townhome and opened fire on my dad over a dozen times, hitting him on the crown of his head and multiple times in his groin area.”
Lewis has not yet gotten official approval from the NFL to wear Sledd’s name.
“I’m gonna talk to someone and just find out,” Lewis said.
The incident shares striking similarities to a Louisville, Kentucky incident that occurred in 2020.
Her name was Breonna Taylor.
Taylor, an aspiring nurse and EMT, was struck by eight police bullets in March as officers in what has been coined a “botched raid” by Kentucky police. The 26-year-old didn’t survive. Since that time, Taylor's death has inspired many to speak out in mass protest against police brutality.
Her name was on Lewis’ helmet in his Seahawks debut.
As Lewis looks to make an impact on the Seahawks in his rookie year, he’ll continue to use his platform as an NFL player to raise the voices of others.
“Innocent people are dying,” Lewis said. “They want to be here. It’s sad that they aren’t here to watch the game, be at their homes watching the game with their families, so people who ain’t here, I’m just representing.”
[Listen to the latest Talkin' Seahawks podcast with host Joe Fann]