It won’t be a complete celebration of the end of Ray Lewis’ great football career next week in New Orleans. The problem with reaching the Super Bowl is that the spotlight and scrutiny level goes up exponentially.
That means the off-the-field portion of Lewis’ life also will be examined. He has a dark moment in his past: His possible involvement in two murders in Atlanta in 2000.
The Washington Post isn’t waiting for New Orleans. The Post’s Kent Babb did a terrific piece of enterprise reporting with a long story about Lewis and the murders. Charges against Lewis were eventually dropped, although the Baltimore linebacker wound up paying millions to settle civil suits by the victims’ families.
Babb visited one of the victim’s families in Ohio. The family still believes Lewis was involved.
Nearly 13 years after the incident, Lewis’s legacy centers on his outstanding career, his message of faith and giving, and the charisma that will no doubt be on display throughout next week before the Super Bowl.
Richard Lollar’s family in Akron, meanwhile, associates Lewis’s name with something far different, and they continue to struggle — with money and Priscilla’s mother’s illness and the impossibility, even so many years later, to find closure to a situation that has offered none. Some relatives have faced Richard’s death head-on, but his mother has dealt with it by ignoring the ordeal’s most elemental fact: that her son is dead.
Later, there’s this passage:
On Feb. 3, Lewis will be introduced in New Orleans and will play in his second Super Bowl. He said before the playoffs that he’ll retire after this season, and in five years, he will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which is headquartered in Canton, Ohio, less than 25 miles from the home where Richard Lollar grew up.
In the years since Lollar’s death Lewis has become one of football’s most beloved figures. He speaks openly about his faith in God, and his No. 52 Ravens jersey is, according to NFLshop.com, one of its highest sellers. At the country’s most-viewed sporting event, most eyes will be on Lewis, who most assuredly will be compared with a warrior making his heroic last stand.
“I don’t want to hear that,” Faye Lollar says, “because he’s not no hero to me.”
Lewis will have numerous media sessions with the national media next week. Will the murders be brought up? How much will it be a part of the narrative for the stories on him?
Judging from the Post story, plenty.