The Curious Case of Ray Lewis

January 22, 2013

The dominant story of this post-season has been Ray Lewis.  He announced before the playoffs that he would retire after the season, so each of the last 3 games could have been his last.  Lewis is an outstanding player who has defined his franchise and his position for the pretty much every one of his 17 years in the league.  He is also very out-spoken, media friendly, and by all accounts a very good guy.  As a result the media has spent the last 3 weeks fawning over Lewis, who has responded by turning his particular brand of charisma and over the top excitement up to 11.

Normally I would love everything about this situation.  The atmosphere in Baltimore for that last game was insane, plus I totally respect bumping Nelly before NFL games.  A huge part of me wants to root for the Ravens to win the Super Bowl and send Ray Lewis out on top.  There is only one problem.  HE FUCKING KILLED A GUY. (probably)

On January 31st, 2000 Ray Lewis and his entourage got into a fight at an Atlanta nightclub that left two men dead.  Lewis and two of his associates were charged with murder and Lewis eventually plead guilty to obstruction of justice in exchange for dropping the murder charge.

None of this is breaking news.  I get that.  But if you are anything like me you were either too young to grasp the significance, or have just forgotten the gritty details.  And they are pretty damn gritty.  Thanks to this excellent Grantland piece I have been able to read up on what exactly went down and it really forces you to question the hero worship Ray Lewis is currently receiving.

As far as I can tell Lewis and a few friends got into a fight at a nightclub.  At some point during the fight, two men got stabbed and later died.  Lewis was seen throwing punches but not with a knife.  Once the men were stabbed Lewis and his group got into a limo and drove off.  Lewis was heard telling people not to talk to the cops, and at some point disposed of a white suit that was allegedly covered in blood.

There is no evidence  that Lewis actually stabbed anyone, but that doesn’t really matter.  He and his associates killed a man in a fight and then covered up the evidence.  By the letter of the law, that is murder just the same as if Lewis himself had knifed the man.

(It is important to note that while both of Lewis’ two friends who were accused of stabbing the men were tried for murder, neither were convicted.  Of course neither was O.J.)

My point here is not to demonize Ray Lewis.  He served time for his mistake (not much, but still) and has been an exemplary citizen for the past 13 years, using his money and influence to do a lot of good in the world.  This doesn’t make up for murder of course, but we will never really be sure of what happened that night and I can understand many people wanting to give Lewis the benefit of the doubt.  What I cannot understand is why so many people, especially in the sports media, are willing to not only forgive Lewis but also to forget.

We live in a world where our sports heroes are constantly picked apart.  Cam Newton puts a towel on his head after a bad interception, and all of a sudden he has an attitude problem and is an un-redeemable loser.  Jay Cutler snaps at an offensive lineman after a missed block and is forever labeled as a whiner and a douche.  Ray Lewis has to plead guilty to obstruction of justice to avoid a murder trial and somehow moves past that to become a great humanitarian and leader.  And the murder is hardly ever mentioned.  Bringing it up on TV or in print seems to have become a faux pas.  Like it is in bad taste to remind the world that this sports hero may have also stabbed a man.

The double standard that Ray Lewis receives astounds me.  Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens used steroids to increase their performance on the baseball field and they have been widely vilified and blackballed from the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Mike Vick beat his dogs (which is terrible) and went to jail for over a year, and has never been thought of the same.  All the while Lewis manages to have his legacy uninfluenced by a much worse incident.  My explanation for this is that Lewis is extremely media/fan friendly and always gives a good interview.  Being friendly and approachable is obviously a good attribute but people seem to assume that Clemens, Bonds and Vick committed worse crimes just because they are dicks.  This is dumb logic.

I am not saying that Ray Lewis is a bad person, or that he definitely killed those men.  We will never know what really happened that night so it would be unfair to judge Lewis exclusively on that one incident.  It is equally unfair however to completely ignore it when forming our opinions of him.  The media need to stop glossing over this extremely unsavory aspect of Lewis’ past and paint the full picture of the man.  Failure to do so would be to ignore the facts in favor of the narrative.  This is irresponsible journalism, and one would think a less common practice after the Te’o debacle.

We shouldn’t ignore the great career of Ray Lewis, but we need to remember that bloody white suit along with all of his tackles and interceptions.


2 Responses to “The Curious Case of Ray Lewis”

  1. Wow, I’m glad you have no part of the judiciary process or otherwise you’d be the judge, jury and executioner. In your court, you would convict based on probable cause: “HE FUCKING KILLED A GUY. (probably)” Nice. You’re nothing more than a boneheaded vigilante.

    • rweaver89 said

      That’s a fair point, but hopefully you noticed that I didn’t expressly argue for Lewis to be punished either in the court of law or public opinion. My point was that people do not consider this very unsavory aspect of Lewis’ past when thinking about his legacy. I think that they should.

      And if you want my personal opinion he was certainly involved in the murders but as you pointed out in the comment, and I pointed out in the post, we will never know for sure so no real action can or should be taken

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