Only in the magical world of sports do horrible deeds and actions get completely forgotten over time, especially if you’re good. Ray Lewis, while not even remotely the only example, might be the perfect person that fits this description. Lewis, no matter which way you try to slice it, was involved in a double homicide on January 31, 2000 (Following a Super Bowl XXXIV party). Lewis was involved but, thanks to his thrifty lawyers, a plea bargain was made as long as Lewis testified against two of his “friends”, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting.
I’m not saying that Lewis had the knife in his hand and directly stabbed the victims, there’s no proof. Full disclosure, Oakley and Sweeting were acquitted in 2000. This isn’t a Ray Lewis witch hunt, this is a media and fans logic discovery, as in, where the Sam Cassell did it go.
Sports undeniably loves to glorify redemption stories, then when the story is stale, act like the situation in which redemption was needed never happened. Whether it be for the coach who slapped one of his players or an athlete involved in a double homicide. Somehow, as long as you’re really good, all is forgiven and forgotten. But not for any victims that might have been involved before there was any need for redemption.
Lewis has done a great job of reinventing himself over the years. As pregame football programs show lengthy Lewis tributes, the days of his discrepancies seem lost in the minutia of 24/7 sports coverage. It doesn’t hurt that Lewis is a Hall of Fame level player either. If he had been a player that was in-and-out of the league in five years, I doubt people — networks mostly– would be giving him such a generous benefit of the doubt.
Baltimore Ravens fans don’t seem to have a problem with Lewis being the face of their organization despite being an accused murderer. Whether he did it or not is irrelevant, in no other walk of life would a company let a person with Lewis’ previous track record be the face of their organization. Sometimes it’s not the guilt that causes you the reputation, it’s the reputation you vigorously try to build that can be your undoing.
Lewis’ defense at the time was one of just hanging out with the wrong crowd. That he was the good guy surrounded by bad ones. Lewis was with the two other accused people because he wanted to have that reputation, as tough as hell on and off the field. Ironically, his bad guy off the field persona changed, as soon as serious jail-time and a loss of millions loomed.
But sports personalities and programs keep pushing Lewis to the forefront as an outstanding person. That’s not to say he wasn’t a good man doing a stupid thing a little over a decade ago, but this isn’t the person you should trick children into thinking is a solid role-model. However, it’s Lewis’ farewell tour, so all logic is thrown out the window in favor of a charismatic Hall of Famer such as Lewis.
You can forgive a child for not seeing through the character that Lewis is portrayed as in the media, but the people pushing his now squeaky clean persona are adults. In fact, a lot of the people worshiping at the alter of Lewis are “grown-ups” as well. Why are supposedly smart adults only focusing on the charitable side of the Lewis story instead of embracing it as a whole, good and bad. Is it the old “Well I’m not going to talk bad about the dead” situation? Because someone is on their way out, that all of a sudden, they become a beaming glare of good.
Lewis is not the only athlete’s case in which something like this has occurred– where an athlete’s horrible off the field/court actions are being overlooked due to on the playing field greatness. Time and time again mainstream media would rather you forget an athlete’s bad deeds towards humanity as they search for ratings gold.
This isn’t an indictment on Lewis. For all any of us know, Lewis is genuinely a swell guy. But the history of Lewis says otherwise and we all continue to ignore it while praising him every Sunday.
This weekend, all the pregame shows will have another telethon celebrating the life and playing career of Lewis. Unfortunately, the families of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar will have to as well. Those two people? Oh, they were the victims of a stabbing way back in 2001.
Before you say that they don’t have to watch. That they can choose not to see anything Ray Lewis related. Think…
Are they supposed to have football, television, and closure taken away from them as well as their loved ones? Regardless if Lewis had any involvement, the celebration of his life is just another reminder to the victim’s families of their loss. I guess since the victims weren’t Hall of Fame level athletes, the decency shown to Lewis won’t be shown to their families.
But hey, keep talking about all his motivational speeches using God in them. Because as Lewis let us know, apparently the Denver Broncos were a weapon made from the Devil and that God, in turn, loved the Ravens just that much more.
Joe covers the Catholic Seven for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone