Sports fans across the country are mourning Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis' impending retirement following the end of this football season and heaping on the praise of his outstanding Hall of Fame football career.
However, there is grumbling from Buckhead residents who remember that Lewis was initially charged in connection with the murder of two men following the Superbowl in 2000.
"I don't know if words can really explain the greatness of Ray Lewis," said ESPN NFL analyst Damien Woody after the announcement of Lewis' retirement. Lewis will begin as a analyst for ESPN following his retirement.
Many in Buckhead and throughout Atlanta say that Lewis' career and on-field leadership will always be tainted because of one fateful night in Buckhead following the Superbowl in January 2000. They say that because of that night, Buckhead was changed forever, with clubs closing earlier and now serving what some have identified as a vastly different type of patron.
Lewis, then 24, admitted to being present during a fight that preceeded the fatal killing of two 20-something men on East Paces Ferry Road near the now defunct Cobalt Lounge. The two men, Jacinth Baker, 21, and Richard Lollar, 24, were stabbed to death right before Lewis and his entourage piled into a rented limo and sped away, according to this report from Sports Illustrated.
Lewis was initially charged with two counts each of murder, felony murder and aggravated assault, but eventually was able to plead guilty to a charge of misdemeanor obstruction of justice in exchange for testimony against Joseph Sweeting and Reginald Oakley, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Sweeting and Oakley were members of Lewis' entourage that night and were charged with the deaths of the two young men and then acquitted after a three-week trial.
What Buckhead and Atlantans Are Saying
Many Atlantans took to social media to express their thoughts on Lewis' retirement announcement:
@WaffleHouseDJ said, "congrats on Ray Lewis' illustrious playing career, but his late night Buckhead SB visit 4ever chg'd ATL"
@tdappel said, "Aren't people kind of ignoring that whole Atlanta thing with regard to Ray Lewis?"
@fshires said, "Safe to say Ray Lewis won't be holding his retirement party in Atlanta...."
It's not just Buckhead and Atlanta residents who remember the murders and Lewis' connection to them, but an NPR columnist pointed out that the national media seems to leave out this incident in its fanfare celebrating his career and even personal life.
Mike Pesca wrote a column for NPR about Lewis' retirement and the gaping hole left by media coverage of the Buckhead murders.
Pesca said, "The facts are that Lewis was indicted, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and testified against the two men, who were eventually found not guilty. He may also be a redeemed soul — and without a doubt he is one of the very few best defensive players in NFL history. Taken together, that is a more complete version of his legacy."
In this Deadspin column, Barry Petchesky points out one CBS sportscaster's "unfortunate parable" comparing Lewis' connection to the double stabbing to her sneaking to smoke cigarettes in middle school.
He writes, "Somewhere along the line, we as a nation apparently chose to forgive/forget the fact that Ray Lewis was involved in a murder at a Super Bowl party in 2000...Media folks love Lewis because he's friendly, open, and a fantastic quote. He'll be great on TV for the same reasons. But shouldn't we at least mention the other stuff?"
What are your thoughts on Lewis' career? Is it tainted by this fateful night 13 years ago in Buckhead? Is the media ignoring the murders of the two young men and that Lewis was initially charged with two counts of murder? Tell us your thoughts.
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