Sportswriters, and elephants, never forget

Ray Lewis should expect to be grilled again at Super Bowl about the Atlanta murders

January 23, 2013|Susan Reimer

Anna Burns Welker added her name to the list of Patriot Wives Pouting (see Gisele Bundchen) when she went after Ray Lewis' reputation on Facebook after the AFC Championship game Sunday.

"By the way, if anyone is bored, please go to Ray Lewis' Wikipedia page. 6 kids, 4 wives, Acquitted for murder. Paid a family off. Yay. What a hall of fame player! A true role model!"

The wife of the Patriots' wide receiver Wes Welker, who dropped two passes during the game, later apologized, saying her post was "emotional and irrational," and attributing her outburst to the frustration she felt after the Patriots' 28-13 loss.

Chalk it up to another Super Bowl ritual — dredging up the past. In the lead-up to the big game, all the skeletons come out of all the closets.

Mr. Lewis was indicted 13 years ago in the stabbing deaths of two men outside an Atlanta nightclub in the wee hours after the 2000 Super Bowl. Initial murder charges against him were reduced to obstruction of justice in exchange for his testimony against two of his friends, both also acquitted.

Mr. Lewis ultimately made financial settlements to the families of both victims and was fined by the NFL. The murders remain unsolved and the families bitter about Mr. Lewis' success.

When the Ravens made it to the Super Bowl the following season, coach Brian Billick tried to get in front of the story by barking at 200 sports reporters and calling them "ambulance chasers." It didn't work, and Mr. Lewis answered or deflected more than 50 questions about the murders during media day in Tampa, Fla.

"That's a story in my book that is closed," he said.

But it is going to come up again next month in New Orleans. There have been a couple of stories in major newspapers — including this one — revisiting the murders and the families of the victims, and Mr. Lewis will be asked about it again. Guaranteed.

It is the nature of sports reporting and political reporting these days that absolutely nothing is off limits. Not even children, as President Barack Obama learned when a National Rifle Association commercial focused on his. Mr. Lewis may be asked about his children, too. (He does indeed have six children by four women, but he has never been married. Mrs. Welker got that part wrong.)

Likewise, Terrell Suggs will be asked about his guns and his domestic disputes with the mother of his children and his sudden marriage to her. And whether he was playing basketball when he ruptured his Achilles tendon in the off-season, an activity that is often forbidden in player contracts.

And quarterback Joe Flacco will be asked, for the millionth time, if he gets the respect he deserves in Baltimore and why he thinks management hasn't offered him a new contract. Sportswriters are pretty predictable.

And callous. One reporter asked Oakland quarterback Jim Plunkett before a Super Bowl if his mother was blind and his father deaf, or the other way around.

And pretty relentless. Jack "Hacksaw" Reynolds of the 49ers was so tired of telling the story of his nickname that he typed up the answer and passed out dozens of copies.

What makes the hounding of Ray Lewis different is that he has created a spotlight for himself. This might be his farewell tour, but a good argument can be made that Mr. Flacco's play has made this his moment. Mr. Lewis' dancing, his tears, his invocation of God and God's will and his feel-the-love victory lap at M&T Bank Stadium have brought him additional, perhaps cynical, scrutiny outside of Baltimore.

And, of course, the murders for which Mr. Lewis was indicted were never solved, his bloody clothes never found, the story of what happened that night never fully told.

Questions remain about that night in Atlanta. And they will be asked during Super Bowl week.

Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at and @SusanReimer on

Editor's note: Early versions of this article incorrectly stated that Ray Lewis was acquitted of murder charges in the 2000 Atlanta nightclub incident, when in fact those charges were dropped. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

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