January 26, 2001, - 1:31 am
Last year’s Super Bowl featured 13 convicted criminals, most of whom committed very serious crimes. And while the criminal count for Sunday’s Super Bowl in Tampa has yet to be reported, the presence of one player, Ray Lewis, more than meets the NFL’s thug quota.
Lewis, a Baltimore Ravens linebacker and the NFL’s Defensive Player of Year, is likely an accessory to murder, if not worse. After last year’s Super Bowl, two people were stabbed to death, outside an Atlanta bar, and three people were arrested for their murder. One of them was Lewis, who was found guilty of obstructing the murder investigation. But Lewis and Ravens Coach Brian Billick think we should just “let it go.” Billick had the audacity to tell reporters that coverage of a likely murderer in the Super Bowl is “reprehensible.” No, the fact that Lewis is in Sunday’s game is what’s reprehensible.
Lewis fled the murder scene in his limo and constantly lied to police about what happened. Eyewitnesses placed him at the scene, and, conveniently, the clothes Lewis wore that night vanished. Would an innocent person have a reason to lose his clothes, if they were not worn during the commission of a blood-spattering murder? With two people stabbed to death, and NFLer Lewis roaming free, the only departure from O.J. Simpson is that he’s not “looking for the real killers.”
As USA Today’s Jon Saraceno points out, Lewis’ only response to his role in all of this, seems to be, “You all trippin’.” He made a deal with prosecutors for murder charges to be dropped in exchange for his testimony incriminating his former co-defendants. But he didn’t keep his part of the deal, giving worthless testimony, most of which was about his conversations with the co-defendants about the murder: “Hey man, you all are trippin’ with the knives. … You all trippin’. … This is all on me. My career is over because you guys trippin’.”
No, the only party that’s trippin’ here is the NFL, because Lewis’ career isn’t over. The fact that Lewis is still playing in the NFL, is the worst crime here. And, for the NFL, it’s hardly a first offense.
A few weeks ago, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue sent an e-mail to 600,000 NFL.com newsletter subscribers apologizing for NFL players’ criminal conduct and promising that, in light of the murder trials of Lewis and former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth, the NFL will “re-examine our policies and programs to determine what could be done to prevent this type of behavior.” But, with Lewis still in the NFL, let alone playing in the Super Bowl, that’s just a bunch of Clinton-esque doubletalk.
Unlike any other legal industry or enterprise, the NFL has a long history of employing convicted rapists, wife-beaters, armed robbers, attempted murderers, drunk drivers and the like. The authors of “Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL,” Jeff Benedict and Don Yeager, found that at least one in five — and probably one in four — NFL players has been convicted of a serious crime. Benedict, in his “Public Heroes, Private Felons: Athletes and Crimes Against Women,” found that from 1986 through 1996, over 425 professional and college athletes were publicly reported for violent crimes against women, and 199 such athletes were charged with physical or sexual acts against women.
The NFL knows about these crimes, doing extensive background checks, using former FBI agents, prior to its annual player draft. But, any great player that’s accused or convicted of a crime, still gets to play in the pro league, unless he’s otherwise occupied with current incarceration. Alluding to the losing Detroit Lions’ luck in avoiding criminal players, new team President/CEO Matt Millen said, “You need a couple of rats” in the locker room. NFL coach Dick Vermeil drafted Ryan Tucker, after his college career of beating Bryan Boyd so badly that Boyd was read his last rites and his mother was asked about donating his organs. When confronted about this, Vermeil said, “Character guys get in fights,” and that he likes players who can “finish” a fight.
And there’s a whole list of convicted criminal players like this, from Lewis to Lawrence Phillips to Carruth to Christian Peter to Corey Dillon to Jumbo Elliot, who’ve been, or still are, tolerated — in fact, promoted — in the NFL. It’s amazing, given the NFL’s relentless self-promotion as a family product.
Incredibly, a 1984 felony conviction for sexual assault and false imprisonment made former Dallas Cowboys linebacker “Hollywood” Henderson ineligible for elected office, but not for the NFL or its Hall of Fame. Ditto for convicted crack user Lawrence Taylor. Green Bay Packers’ Mark Chmura’s rape trial started this week, but if convicted he’ll be back in the NFL when he gets out of jail. If he’s still healthy. Miami Dolphins wideouts coach Robert Ford wasn’t kidding when he said, “If we keep our receivers healthy and out of jail, we should be OK” for football season.
What’s worse is our tax dollars, in the form of sports welfare, pay for the stadiums they play in, the stadiums that allow their employers to profit enough to afford their high salaries. Millionaire criminals subsidized by tax money. It’s enough to make the mafia think of coming out of the underground. After all, just like the NFL, it’s an enterprise that attracts “families,” too.
Ironically, the NFL recently banned players from doing the throat-slash gesture on the field. But, while two people were murdered in cold-blood by multiple stabs, Ray Lewis is playing in the Super Bowl. In the NFL’s warped logic, the gesture is illegal, but the real thing is OK. Even more outrageous: If the Ravens win, and Lewis is their MVP, he might be mugging for the cameras telling our kids that he’s going to Disney World next.
It’s enough to make you want to kill yourself. Unless Ray Lewis or another NFL player does it to you, first.
Tags: annual player, Atlanta bar, Audacity, Baltimore Ravens, Brian Billick, Bryan Boyd, Carolina Panther Rae Carruth, Christian Peter, coach, Commissioner, Corey Dillon, Dallas Cowboys, Debbie Schlussel Last, Defensive Player, Detroit Lions, Dick Vermeil, Don Yeager, Eyewitnesses, family product, Federal Bureau of Investigation, football, great player, Green Bay Packers, Hall of Fame, Innocent Person, Jeff Benedict, Jon Saraceno, Jumbo Elliot, Lawrence Phillips, Lawrence Taylor, linebacker, Mark Chmura, Matt Millen, Miami Dolphins, Murder Charges, Murder Investigation, Murder One, Murder Scene, Murderer, National Football League, NFL, O.J. Simpson, Paul Tagliabue, player, Ravens, Ravens Linebacker, Ray Lewis, Robert Ford, Ryan Tucker, Serious Crimes, sports welfare, Super Bowl, Tampa, team President/CEO, thug, Trippin, USA Today