The story of retiring Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is being told over and over again in the lead-up to the Super Bowl.
But it’s being told all wrong.
Most people look at January 31, 2000 as the beginning and the end, but they’re missing the point.
Do you judge a person at their lowest point? Or do you see how they react to being in that place?
Ray Lewis was undeniably involved in an altercation on January 31, 2000 outside an Atlanta night club. At some point, two men, Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, were stabbed to death. Lewis was charged with the murders, but plead guilty to obstruction of justice in a plea agreement to testify against his friends Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting.
Here’s the crazy part: Oakley and Sweeting were acquitted of all charges. In the eyes of the law, the only crime committed was Lewis’ for giving a misleading statement.
So, there was no murder conviction against anybody.
But Lewis was found guilty in the court of public opinion – and that can oftentimes be a life sentence.
The true story of Ray Lewis is this:
A supremely-talented football player who, at best, was hanging with the wrong crowd, took his punishment from the court of law and turned his life around and has become a leader, a product endorser, and, reportedly soon, a media personality.
We so often talk about redemption in positive tones, but so many people outside of Ravens Nation still see Lewis in such a negative way. (And with recent allegations of banned substance use, it’s not a totally invalid point of view.)
I offer that while we should never forgive nor forget his past, we should celebrate the complete transformation he has undergone.
Being called the “heart and soul” of the Ravens was a hard-earned title. He is in no way a perfect human being. None of us are.
But how many people who are given a chance to redeem themselves do just that to the levels he has?
Feel free to dwell on the past, if you’d like. It’s your right to do so.
Or you can join me in, while never forgetting the low, watching the greatest sports redemption story of our time.