Trying recently to apprehend the yin and yang legacy of the NFL’s Ray Lewis, who will retire after his Baltimore Ravens contend for the Super Bowl next week, the Times‘ Lynn Zinser wondered: “Was he a great statesman, or the shady guy the N.F.L. once fined a substantial sum for his involvement in a murder?”
If that dichotomy strikes you as perverse, or makes you think you’ve left the sports pages and landed at a historians’ round table discussing, say, world leaders who favor drone attacks or secret assassinations, you are forgiven. But after chewing on the choice, think about that last part again: “the guy the NFL once fined a substantial sum for his involvement in a murder.” Sorry, what? You can just pay a fine for that? The lead-up to the Super Bowl is already brimming with encomiums to this exceptionally talented football player, and the NFL–which controls its content better than the State Department–will do its best to ensure that no loose lips besmirch the future Hall of Famer by lingering on some long-ago, heat-of-the-moment indiscretion regarding the murder of two human beings–a 2000 crime that remains unsolved. Lewis has since done a lot of admirable charity work in Baltimore. And his plea bargain from those ancient days says he was guilty merely of “obstruction of justice.” The ferocious Lewis is clearly as good at obstructing as he is at tackling, for justice never got back up.