As you may have noticed from my bio, I’m from Baltimore, Maryland. I’m a happy camper this morning after a nail biter of a second half of the Super Bowl. My Ravens are second time Super Bowl Champs! Amid the hooting and hollering of my Ravens fan friends on Facebook and even a congratulatory post from a dear friend who is a devoted 49’s fan, a comment was plopped unceremoniously on my celebratory “WE WON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” status update. It said “But he was found guilty of obstructing justice in the deaths of two people.” Really? That AGAIN? I’ve heard it after every playoff game, and quite honestly I’ve completely had it.
Here’s the facts, folks. Ray Lewis had a phenomenal 17 year career as a linebacker. He played his entire career for the Baltimore Ravens. That’s loyalty you rarely see anymore. A few years into his career with the Ravens, he made a mistake. He was with two others who killed a man in Atlanta. Ray, fearing for his career initially fled, but changed his mind and became a witness for the prosecution, accepting an obstruction of justice charge (and the 12 month probation that went along with it) and testified against the two defendants charged with the crimes. Those defendants were acquitted on grounds of self-defense. Had Lewis stayed quiet, he too would have been acquitted.
He never made excuses for what happened. He never got into trouble again. He committed his life and career to God and his team. He’s done great charitable things for the community here in Baltimore and in Miami. I’d call that doing the right thing.
But what is it that every Baltimore fan hears about the Ravens? We’re “thugs” and Ray Lewis is a “murderer.” Hey, I’ll be the first to admit that we have an aggressive defense, but off the field, not so much. I did the research, folks. The Ravens are hardly the most “thuggish” team out there. Here are some facts to chew on. I found a website with a database of verifiable arrests of NFL players made from 2000-2013. This is where I am basing the following.
In just one year, 2012-2013, 24 of the 32 NFL teams had players arrested. 11 teams had 1 arrest each – Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City, New England, both New York teams, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Tennessee and Washington. 5 had two each – Atlanta, Denver, Oakland, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. 6 had 3 each – Cincinnati, Dallas, Jacksonville, Miami, Minnesota and Seattle. Detroit had a whopping 6 in one year. This is a total of 45 arrests in a year. Of those, 14 involved a crime other than a DWI/DUI or drug charge, including rape (1), manslaughter (1) and battery/assault/domestic violence (12).
I had to go back as far as 2010 to find even one Raven arrested. The most Baltimore had in any year was 3 in 2001. The worst charge, Terrell Suggs being charged with felony assault in Phoenix, resulted in an acquittal. But it gets even better. From 2000-2013, there were 629 arrests for all the NFL teams. Sorting the chart at the website by team, I could then count which teams had the most and least arrests. The most was Minnesota with 40. Of those 40, half were violent crimes (i.e. not DWI/DUI or drug charges), and were assaults, weapons charges, domestic violence charges and even an obstruction charge.
The lowest was St. Louis with 8. Of those 8, 3 were DUI charges, 3 involved other non-violent charges and two assault/domestic violence charges. The rest broke down like this: 4 teams with under 10 arrests, 13 teams from 11-19 arrests, 8 teams with 20-29 arrests, and the highest two were, Cincinnati with 39 and Minnesota with 40. Baltimore fell on the low end with 16, and of those 11 were DUI/DWI or drug arrests.
I make no excuses for the bad behavior of any athlete. What I can’t stand is the disrespect aimed at my team when the majority of the other teams were as bad or much worse. If an athlete is unrepentant, as I wrote about last week, then they deserve our disgust and disrespect. If they change their lives for the better, never make the same mistakes, then let it go, people!
As Christians we are told “Judge not lest ye be judged.” In fact, I was called a hypocrite because I judged Lance Armstrong, and gave Ray Lewis a pass. I did judge Lance’s words of non-repentance and continued lies, but didn’t give Ray a pass. I fully acknowledge he did the wrong thing. But I recognized that his actions since showed a changed man.
We are allowed, Biblically, to judge the actions of others. Without being able to do so, our entire system of justice would never have come to be. 1 Corinthians 5:11-12 calls us to avoid associating with immoral people. How can we stay away from those who are behaving immorally if we aren’t allowed to judge those actions that tell us they are immoral? In Matthew 12:33, we are told “a tree is known by its fruits.” Clearly we are told to judge the actions of others. We may not, and should never judge the hearts of others. Their hearts, and any judgments of them, belong to God.
So leave my Ravens be, let them enjoy their successes, on and off the field.
Image: Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Ray Lewis; source: http://www.andrews.af.mil/ news/story_media.asp?id=123065884; author: Bobby Jones