Really, Baltimore Ravens? Really? The ink isn’t even dry on Ray Lewis’ retirement papers, and already you’re planning to erect a statue of him? While the Ravens organization obviously believes that such a move to honor Lewis is warranted, the decision to go ahead and build a statue in Lewis’ honor, especially at this point in time, is awfully premature and carries some risk.
It’s not that Lewis doesn’t deserve to be honored by the Ravens in some way. He is one of the elite defensive players of his generation and among the best linebackers to ever play the game. He has spent the last 17 seasons anchoring a defense that is one of the best in the NFL year after year, leading the Ravens to two Super Bowl wins along the way.
Lewis was drafted by the Ravens in their first year of existence and has stayed with the team throughout his entire career, making him synonymous with the Raven’s franchise. Lewis means more to the city of Baltimore than almost any other sports figure ever has. Needless to say, Lewis’ play on the field makes him worthy of being honored, and the city of Baltimore is more than willing to honor him. However, it’s not that simple.
Amidst the long list of accomplishments Lewis has amassed throughout his career, there is a dark side that threatens the legacy he has built with his play on the field. The biggest dark spot on Lewis’ resume came in Atlanta in January of 2000 when he was indicted on murder charges after an altercation that left two men stabbed to death. Lewis denied committing the murders and eventually pleased his way out of the murder charge in exchange for his testimony, and was punished with a mere 12 months of probation and a $250,000 fine. However, seeing as how no one has been convicted of the two murders in question, the fact that Lewis later settled with the victim’s families to avoid a civil case, and how many believe that Lewis knows more about what happened than he says he does, the matter does not appear to be closed, making it possible for more information about Lewis’ involvement to come to light at a future time. Considering the seriousness of what happened, how closely associated Lewis is with what happened, and the lack of closure the event has, it may not be wise to honor Lewis with something as permanent as a statue.
The other issue at hand is the allegations levied against Lewis the week before the Super Bowl, accusing that he used deer-antler spray to help him recover faster from his recent triceps injury. Despite his vehement denials, the allegations do call into question the impressive longevity that Lewis has had, as well as his high level of play during the later stages of his career. There’s no absolute proof that Lewis used performance-enhancing drugs, nor would proof of that erase all that he has accomplished in his career, but the mention of Lewis and PED’s in the same sentence does cast a small black cloud over his career, which alters the way many view him and his legacy.
The relation Lewis has to an unsolved double-murder and the recent allegations of PED use should be enough to make the Ravens rethink their plans to erect a statue of him. It’s understandable that the Ravens want to do something to honor Lewis, but there are ways to honor him that don’t involve something as public and prestigious as a statue for such a controversial figure. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to the excitement of the second Super Bowl victory that Lewis has helped deliver to Baltimore. But the legacy of people depicted on permanent fixtures like statues should stand the test of time.
Think of the embarrassment Penn State suffered through as they removed their statue of former head coach Joe Paterno. Does Baltimore want to risk doing the same to a statue of Lewis if the worst suspicions of his past are one day confirmed? The Ravens have the advantage of already knowing what skeletons may lurk in Lewis’ closet, and yet they plan to move forward with a monument in his honor. Perhaps someday, after many years have passed, and the legacy and reputation of Lewis are still of someone that deserves it, a statue of him can be erected for the world to see. Sorry Baltimore, but now is just not the right time.