Media’s Love Affair with Ray Lewis is Irresponsible
The Ravens 24-9 victory over the Colts means there will be no retirement ceremony this week for Ray Lewis. The media's love affair with perennial All-Pro MLB is already under way, however, and there is no lack of glorification. Watching the news flow since last Wednesday when Lewis announced this will be his last season has been quite uncomfortable from my perspective. It was hard for me to even watch today’s pre-game coverage. I found myself looking for other things to do whenever a piece about Ray Lewis came on. I couldn't tell you what, if anything, was said about Lewis in the post game. I had no interest in hearing anyone wax poetically about him, so I didn't watch it. My problem has nothing to do with Lewis' body of work on the field, it has more to do with the way the media is covering his retirement.
As unquestionably one of the best football players and on-field leaders of his era, Ray Lewis has received never ending accolades this week cementing his place in the game. As the undisputed best middle linebacker in the game during his era (yes, better than Brian Urlacher), Lewis deserves all the praise he is being given for the fire, intensity, discipline, leadership and performance he put forth during his 17-year career. That being said, the fact that almost no one in the main stream media is discussing Lewis’ part in the stabbing and murder of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar on January 31, 2000 at a party in Atlanta during the week of Super Bowl XXXIV as a part of who he was and what he did during his career is offensive to me.
There’s a reason that Trent Dilfer was the “I’m going to Disney World” guy after the Ravens kicked the Giants' butts in Super Bowl XXXV, the season following the murders. Disney simply didn't want to associate themselves with Ray Lewis after his part in the murders the previous year. It had nothing to do with racism, and it had nothing to do with the fact Dilfer was the star of the game. In fact, Dilfer did nothing but manage the game that day (not that he should be disparaged for that; it’s exactly what the Ravens needed and had asked him to do).
To this day, authorities still have not found the bloody white suit that Lewis wore the night of the murders. Pardon my French, but where the fark is it? Why did he ditch it if he had nothing to hide? And why hasn't he ever been forced to either produce it or explain it's disappearance? Murder charges against Lewis were ultimately dropped in exchange for Lewis testifying against his two cronies, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, who were with him on the night of the murders. Lewis admitted that he gave a misleading statement to police on the morning after the killings and was sentenced to 12 months probation, the maximum sentence for a first-time offender. He was also fined $250,000 by the NFL, which as far as I can tell is the highest fine levied against an NFL player for an infraction not involving substance abuse. The problem with all of this of course is that Lewis’ testimony against his friends (which supposedly was going to help the District Attorney's office convict the people responsible for the killings) proved worthless as his buddies Oakley and Sweeting were acquitted of the charges in June of 2000.
To this day no one has ever been charged or held accountable in any way for the murders of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. When you think about it, the circumstances in general are not much different than that of O.J. Simpson, Nicole Brown Simpson & Ronald Goldman. Two murders via knife took place and to this day no one has been held accountable. Sure O.J. lost his civil trail and suffered monetarily, but that is not much different from Lewis’ situation where he settled out of court compensating the families of both Baker and Lollar with millions. Even if Lewis was not the one who did the stabbing, the fact that he agreed to compensate the two families for their loss, pain and suffering means that he in some way was partly responsible for the circumstances surrounding the murders.
While I understand that his monetary concession is not a legal admission of guilt, I also understand that there is no reason to give millions of dollars away in a civil trial without first defending yourself vigorously if you have no risk of being prosecuted. Simply avoiding the costs and nuisance of the trial is no excuse. It cost Lewis more to settle than it would have in legal fees and he also had opportunity to clear his name. If nothing else, proof in a civil trial that he had absolutely nothing to do with the murders would have confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt to the majority of the public that he was wrongly accused of being associated with the murders and would have preserved his legacy. The way it stands now, Lewis cut a deal with the prosecutors to pin the murders on someone else that didn’t stick and he compensated the families of the deceased for his part in their loss and suffering (whatever that was or wasn't). That all adds up to nothing but two dead people and lots of open questions.
To that point, both the criminal and civil legal circumstances following the murders with regard to Ray Lewis leave things open as to his part in the crimes. To not mention this major off field event in Lewis’ life in any significant way as part of his legacy is insulting to the deceased, their families and to me as well. You should be insulted too. To be honest, if he was truly innocent and had nothing whatsoever to do with the occurrence, the fact that the topic has not been discussed as a part of his legacy is insulting to Lewis too because this was the perfect opportunity for the media to finally put this issue to rest and state that he was wrongly associated with the crime. But no one will do that, because no one believes that’s the case. So instead no one is saying anything...
If you have nothing good to say then don’t say anything at all is the stance that the main stream media has taken with regard to Ray Lewis’ part in the murders of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, and that’s irresponsible. Everyone in the media knows that if they were to call him out on this issue that he would not grant them the access they need to air the glorified editorials and write the headline stories about his retirement that sell newspapers and magazines.
Tens of thousands of people cheered when Ray Lewis took the field during today’s pre-game festivities. Next week he won't get the same reception on the field because he'll be on the road, but the media will be there to praise him. I know the Baker and Richard families aren't praising him, and neither am I.
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