His passion for the game of football is evidenced by his undulating dances, his ferocious pursuit of quarterbacks and his Hall-of-Fame career. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is a man of God, a leader of men, and, by all accounts, a perfect team mate.
But should Ray Lewis be participating in a Divisional round playoff game at Mile High this coming Saturday, or should be serving a prison sentence. Does he represent all that is right about sports, as the National media has asserted this week, or does he stand as evident of all that’s wrong with the way society treats the star athlete. Is his outstanding career owed to his faith and dedication, or to a legal defense team that most people could never have afforded?
Is Ray Lewis a murderer?
He was drafted in the first round of the 1996 rookie draft by the Baltimore Ravens and has played every snap of his career for the team. In an era of free-agency, when most players shift from place to place, Lewis has remained a Raven. He has been selected to thirteen Pro-Bowls and has been named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice. He is one of only two linebackers to win the Super Bowl MVP. He will go down as one of the greatest defensive players of all time. Baltimore fans will never forget him.
Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar are forgotten. Perhaps not by their families or their friends, but by NFL fans for sure. They were the two young men who bled to death on January 31, 2000 at around 4 am on a street North of downtown Atlanta outside a club called the Cobalt Lounge. Their punctures were, according to the medical examiner, “well directed wounds into vital areas”. A fight had broken out between the two men and another group who’s $3,000 per-night rented Lincoln Navigator limousine waited at the curb.
Whomever had done Baker and Lollar in was a skillful killer. According to witnesses, the killer or killers was amongst a group of five men, the entourage of one Ray Lewis. The murder weapon, it would later be revealed, was a knife purchased at a sporting goods store during Lewis’ paid appearance there.
Lewis, along with Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were charged with the murders of Baker and Lollar. At the time, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell announced the indictments, saying: “We will not allow wealth or fame or celebrity to pervert justice. That is a commitment that is fundamental, and we will keep it" and asserting that: “What we owe to the public and to the victims and to their families is justice. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Instead, nobody was ever convicted of murdering Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Ray Lewis agreed to plead guilty of obstruction of justice (lying) and to testify against his two friends, Oakley and Sweeting, both of whom had extensive criminal records. Lewis would go on to testify that a fight had broken out outside the club and that he did not want to get involved because he did not want to jeopardize his career. His testimony proved to be of little use to the prosecution and, ultimately, charges were dropped against Oakley and Sweeting.
Justice never has been, and never will be served in the murders of Baker and Lollar. A cloud of doubt will always hang over the incident. Ray Lewis, the future Hall-of-Fame linebacker was cleared in the case and so were his accomplices. litany of questions will go forever unanswered. One of those questions deals with what happened to the clothing Ray Lewis wore to the Cobalt Lounge that night.
Lewis had arrived at the club wearing a white suit. Witnesses reported seeing his limo pull over after it left the club and somebody inside the limo deposit clothing into a dumpster outside a restaurant. Was it Lewis’ white suit? It has never been found.
Whether of not Ray Lewis actually held the murder weapon that night, it’s clear that he was involved in an incident that left two men dead. For most people that would lead to accessory charges at the very least. Lewis had as part of his entourage that night known felons - bad dudes. That makes him a bad dude, too. The fact that Ray Lewis potentially got away with murder doesn’t make him guiltless. It means that he was able to mount a defense that few people can afford. It means that the families of two victims will never know the satisfaction of having seen justice done.
When the Broncos beat the Ravens on Saturday, Ray Lewis will have played his last game in the NFL. There will be many reflections upon his career and the clock will start running on his inevitable entry into the Hall of Fame. His pre-game dance will be shown hundreds of times on the various sports networks. He will go to work as an analyst for ESPN.
Ray Lewis will move on. But the media who so adores him should dedicate at least a few moments recognizing the two victims who might still be alive today had Ray Lewis not chosen to go to the Cobalt Lounge on New Years Eve back in 2000. Rather than holding him up as a shining example of all that’s right in the world of sports, they should acknowledge that he might just be a murderer.