Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Murder arrest still hangs, unfairly, over Lewis
FILE - This Sept. 10, 2012 file photo shows Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis wearing eye black showing the initials of former Ravens owner Art Modell before an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Baltimore. Lewis will end his brilliant 17-year NFL career after the Ravens complete their 2013 playoff run. "I talked to my team today," Lewis said Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. "I talked to them about life in general. And everything that starts has an end. For me, today, I told my team that this will be my last ride." (AP Photo/Nick Wass, FIle)
LITTLE ROCK Perhaps the only way it will be forgotten is when Ray Lewis has long since retired from professional football, and then only if he continues to live a life above reproach.
Lewis, one of the best linebackers in the history of the NFL, is still questioned about his role in the murder of two men 13 years ago outside an Atlanta nightclub.
He was asked about it again a couple of weeks ago, and again, refused to comment.
That doesn’t make him guilty, only tired of an old story.
Lewis, of course, is one of the main story lines this week as the Baltimore Ravens put the finishing touches on their plan for the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers.
It is almost as if much of the mainstream media doesn’t believe the guy learned a hard, valuable lesson and went from party animal to a man who quotes scripture.
There doesn’t seem to be enough forgiveness for the man who was arrested for a double murder, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, a misdemeanor, and gave testimony against two of his companions that night, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting.
Lewis’ arrest was a joke. By all accounts, he was there. Blood from one of the victims was in his limo, but apparently the 17-year NFL veteran was not involved in the fight that left two young men bleeding to death on the cold street in the dark hours.
He testified in the trial of Oakley and Sweeting, but apparently he hadn’t seen anything or enough, and both men were acquitted.
The NFL fined Lewis $250,000 and he was on probation for a year. He later reached a financial settlement with India Lolar, daughter of Richard Lolar, one of the men murdered.
It should be pointed out, too, that the white suit he wore the night of the murder was never found, and he has never accounted for it.
That is an obstruction of justice, not murder.
Since then, his life has seemed fairly normal.
He has continued to wreak havoc on the playing fields but lived rather quietly off it.
Sunday, he tweeted to his legions of followers, “You can prepare for anything but faith will get you through everything.”
He formed the Ray Lewis 52 Foundation to provide personal and economic help to disadvantaged youth. He helps sponsor a leadership program for kids in the Baltimore area. He leads food drives.
Lewis sat out much of this season with a torn tricep, then just before returning for the playoffs, he announced he would retire at the end of the season to spend more time with his six children.
Since then, he’s had several tear-filled news conferences, all laced heavily with scripture.
He avoided talking about the murder 13 years ago, but after the Ravens upset the New England Patriots, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker’s wife posted on her Facebook: “Proud of my husband and the Pats. By the way, if anyone is bored, please go to Ray Lewis’ Wikipedia page. 6 kids 4 wives. Acquitted for murder. Paid a family off. Yay. What a hall of fame player! A true role model!’ ”
A day later Welker’s wife, a former Miss Hooters, apologized and said she was embarrassed for being a sore loser.
The bottom line is 1,567 tackles, 266 sacks, 31 interceptions, 20 fumble recoveries and 19 fumbles forced should not make anyone a role model.
That’s a special job for a dad, grandfather, uncle or close friend.
Ray Lewis was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and both were his decisions, but he didn’t murder anyone.
He’s a great football player who has been haunted for 13 years by the decision he made that night. But he’s innocent, and, by all accounts, believes he has been forgiven by the only one who really matters.
Sports, Pages 15 on 01/29/2013