On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens beat the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, securing a spot in the Super Bowl. The Ravens have been getting their fair share of media attention lately thanks to star linebacker Ray Lewis who announced his retirement from the NFL earlier this year. Following Sunday's game however, he received attention that wasn't quite as welcoming.
And rightfully so…
Thirteen years ago, two friends were murdered in downtown Atlanta after the Super Bowl in a case that remains "unsolved". The involved parties however, are public knowledge.
Ray Lewis pleaded guilty in relation to the case for obstruction of justice — a misdemeanor. He was originally charged with two counts of murder before striking a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony against two of his companions that night.
Lewis never directly linked his two friends to the killings, and they were acquitted. Lewis had testified that Oakley, Sweeting and another man had gone to a sporting goods store the previous day to buy knives. Baker's blood later was found in Lewis' limo. Having fled the crime scene, Lewis told the limo's passengers to "keep their mouths shut." The white suit Lewis was wearing that night — on Super Bowl Sunday — never was found.
"I'm not trying to end my career like this," Lewis said in his hotel that night, according to the testimony of a female passenger in the limo.
He didn't. For his punishment, Lewis received one year of probation and a $250,000 fine by the NFL.
Lewis declined to comment when asked about the subject Thursday by USA TODAY Sports. Messages left for agents and attorneys representing him were not returned. Oakley, recently living in Atlanta, didn't return messages seeking comment. A relative of Sweeting, living in Miami, hung up when reached by USA TODAY Sports. And the prosecutor, Paul Howard, declined a request to be interviewed.
Said Lewis: "You want to talk to me about something that happened 13 years ago right now?"
Lewis was more circumspect about the incident in a 2010 interview with The Baltimore Sun. "I'm telling you, no day leaves this Earth without me asking God to ease the pain of anybody who was affected by that whole ordeal." he said. "He's a God who tests people — not that he put me in that situation, because he didn't make me go nowhere. I put myself in that situation."
In those 13 years, Lewis has not only rehabilitated his image but become an iconic figure for his dominating play and leadership. His 17-year career is likely to be immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, about 20 miles south of Akron, where Lollar and Baker are buried near their families.
Given Lewis's history, many weren't surprised to see Anna Welker, wife of Patriot's wide receiver, take to social media to give a few thoughts about the praise Ray Lewis was receiving after beating her husband's team.
Her statement read:
"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!"
Many were glad to see someone in the public eye shining perspective on the praise Lewis is receiving from outlets like ESPN who are placing this man on a pedestal simply to boost ratings. Unfortunately, Welker has since apologized for her statements.
This morning on radio, Glenn looked a little deeper into this story. He wanted to know why we keep holding people like Lewis, Armstrong, and Tiger Woods as heroes to begin with.
Tiger, who cheated on his wife a countless number of times with a countless number of women, has been pretty much forgiven for his actions by the American people.
"I saw him doing Nike commercials again," Glenn said this morning. "I guess we're over the "Tiger Woods" thing."
"He hasn't had any issues since," Stu responded.
"We always thought he was sneaky-clean," Glenn shot back, making the point that we didn't suspect him in the first place, so we shouldn't assume that.
Stu agreed, and pointed out that while Tiger may be "forgiven" he certainly isn't seeing the love from fans or the media that he used to.
"No one is praising Tiger Woods like he is the most miraculous man in the world," he said. "They are doing that to Ray Lewis."
And while Lewis does seem to have had a real change of heart, he plead guilty to obstruction of justice in a murder trial. While adultery is no joke, it's not murder.
Stu also noted that Lewis seems to be on a very religious path in his redemption — he talks about God all of the time — much more than Tim Tebow does. And, ironically, no one seems to have a problem with the Jesus-talk when it comes from formerly accused murderer Ray Lewis.
Stu also pointed out, Tony Gonzalez, another all-time great NFL player who is retiring this year was competing in the playoffs and didn't receive nearly the amount of attention Lewis did. Gonzalez has, as far as we know, a clean background.
"I mean, we destroy the people who seem to deserve our praise and we do the exact opposite to those who're questionable," Stu said nailing the root of the problem on the head.
"You know, it's a popularity contest," Glenn said. "I know Ray Lewis. I don't know the other guy that's retiring — I don't know his name. So, if I'm in the media, and I'm trying to attract eyeballs, I'm talking about Ray Lewis. Who's the other guy? We're looking for the quick fix and the awards that people get are to sell tickets to something. It's just a popularity contest. Nothing is really real anymore. That's the problem. We have to root ourselves back in reality and truth."