As Ray Lewis channels his inner light, there are those who want to remind him of darker days.
Ray Lewis’ final game as a member of the Baltimore Ravens will play out on the turf of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Super Bowl XLVII. During the Baltimore Ravens phenomenal run through the playoffs, Lewis has placed his faith in God at the focal point of the Ravens three victories – anchored by his 44 tackles.
Most of the attention Super Bowl week will surround the meeting of the Harbaugh brothers John and Jim. Ray Lewis will be the most sought after player. He’ll answer dozens of questions about his 17-years in the NFL, his family, his children and the night that changed him forever.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalms 91:1
Listening to Ray Lewis speak over the years, you could hear a different spirit in his conversations. It had nothing to do with football, but everything to do with his life.
I’m talking about Ray Lewis’ walk with God and how it has been seen by some as hypocrisy and an insult to “good” Christian folk.
With Psalms 91 printed on a cutoff black t-shirt and a scripture on his lips. Lewis is not playing for redemption this time. If you listen closely, he speaks like a man who has already been redeemed.
A percentage of the public, including the families of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, are unfazed by Lewis’ words. They’re more concerned with his actions – specifically on the night of January 31, 2000.
Ray Lewis pled guilty to obstruction of justice charges in the murders of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. The two men got into a fight with Lewis and his two companions, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, following a Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta. That night, Baker and Lollar were stabbed to death.
In exchange for his testimony against Oakley and Sweeting, the murder charge was dismissed against Lewis. He later pled guilty to obstruction of justice for giving false information to police.
Oakley and Sweeting were acquitted in July of 2000. To this day, there have been no arrests in the case.
Despite winning the MVP award in Super Bowl XXXV, the NFL shielded Lewis from the moment. The murders of Baker and Lollar were fresh in everyone’s minds and still unsolved. The NFL fined Lewis $250,000 for his actions, but to celebrate him on the game’s grandest stage would’ve been a public relations disaster and a slap in the face to a family still in mourning.
In this year’s playoffs, Ray Lewis has openly professed his faith to everyone under the sound of his voice. Whether we want to hear it or not, Lewis is going to give his testimony if a microphone is within reach.
Following Sunday’s victory over the New England Patriots, there were chants of “murderer” hurled in his direction. Later that night, former Hooters model Anna Burn Welker, wife of Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, said the following via Twitter: “Proud of my husband and the Pats,” Burns Welker wrote. “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!” Welker issued an apology to Lewis the following day for her actions.
I wonder how she would feel if Welker’s teammate Donte’ Stallworth became Tom Brady’s top target. Stallworth served 90 days in prison on a manslaughter conviction for killing a pedestrian. Stallworth was driving while intoxicated.
Lewis is catching heat in the hood as well. If you subscribe to the code of the streets, Ray Lewis is public enemy No. 1 in the eyes of those who “keep it real”. His testimony against friends Oakley and Sweeting gave him the label of a “snitch”, which is one of the worst tags to have in a street-wise culture. It’s also one of the more moronic labels when tragedy strikes regardless of your street cred status someone is hoping a snitch witnessed something.
I can’t say Lewis is guilty or innocent. He paid out settlements to both families. The anguish of knowing the murderer of your loved one still walks the earth is unbearable at times. The possibility of the individual living a prosperous and celebrated life adds a handful of salt to a slow healing wound. No one is arguing these families deserve closure at all costs.
I also cannot question Lewis’ conviction and its authenticity. Faith is self-based, and no one can gauge it or judge its validity, but the subscriber. It’s known Lewis was raised without a father. It’s known his mentor Raymond King who was killed by police for being in the wrong place at the wrong time in 1993.
There is the story of his University of Miami teammate and roommate Marlin Barnes. Barnes and his girlfriend Timwanika Lumpkins were beaten to death while Lewis was on spring break. Lewis buried his friend the day the Baltimore Ravens selected him 26th overall in the 1996 NFL Draft. There is the pain of losing his rival and friend Steve McNair. Top it off with being present the night two young men lost their lives and there is no doubt Lewis is in his own private hell.
It takes a superhuman effort to exude the emotion Lewis puts out on weekly basis for years on end without pause. His speeches to teammates and young adults at risk strike with a pleading tone. He’s ordering all of us to get back on the right path before it’s too late. Ray Lewis and God know what happened that night. If Lewis escaped the penitentiary or worse by copping a plea, he’s made saving souls his life’s work.
Sadly, nothing Lewis does will bring back Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar.
Lewis has led a different life since that night in Atlanta. There will be questions and discussions about his alleged four marriages which produced six children. Super Bowl media day will be open season for Ray Lewis. Until he walks away from the game next Sunday, the media will unleash an all-out blitz in an effort to bring him to his knees.
If Ray Lewis goes to his knees, it will be out of reverence to his creator, and not in submission to man.