Double Murder Charges Still Haunt Ex-Raven Linebacker Ray Lewis
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Ray Lewis is one of the more divisive figures in modern NFL history. Recently, he sat down with our colleague David Greene.
DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Lewis spent 17 years as a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. He won two Super Bowl titles, and he was known as one of the best defensive players the game has ever known. Yesterday, we spoke to Lewis about football. Today, we talk about life - a life that was nearly derailed. He writes about this in his new book, "I Feel Like Going On." It was the year 2000. Lewis left a Super Bowl party in Atlanta. He was heading for his limo. A ruckus broke out. Two men were stabbed dead. Ray Lewis was charged with double murder. Those charges were soon dropped. Lewis, after spending two weeks in jail, plead guilty to obstruction of justice.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Lewis, is this plea being entered into freely by you?
RAY LEWIS: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It is of your own free will.
GREENE: After that, Ray Lewis kept playing football for more than a decade, but he has never escaped the shadow of Atlanta. And it's not the only shadow he's run from. Ray Lewis was raised by single mom in Lakeland, Fl. His dad was mostly absent and known as a man who misbehaved - treated women badly. In his 30s, Lewis reconnected with his dad. They didn't share much, except for the love of a certain song.
LEWIS: I asked him one day - I was like, dude, you remember "The Five Heartbeats?" He was like - yeah, yeah, of course. I was like, you remember that song at the end where Eddie King was singing, (singing) I feel like going. So when he was singing, I was like, Dad, can you do me a favor? Can you sing that song to me? Every time I call you, every time I - you see my number, just sing that song. And honestly, it was the way that I was able to really let go all of the things that I wanted to say or wanted to get mad, like, every time he called me, and it just made open up to being more of a son.
GREENE: Father and son took a six-hour long car drive together that day.
LEWIS: The entire car ride, I never said a word. Like, I had nothing to say, and he started talking from the moment we got in the car. And I remember sitting there, man. I don't think I took a sip of water. I don't think I did anything. I just sat there and listened to everything he had to say.
GREENE: Is he proud of you?
LEWIS: Yeah, yeah. And I think, honestly - I think my father's proud of me because, you know - we talk about this all the time - that I was strong-minded enough to overcome some of the things that were his downfall. A lot of things Dad got caught up in so early, man - it destroyed my dad. And so when he sees me now, you know, he always says, you know, if I could've just thought about doing it right or thought about doing it differently, then my life would've somewhat been like yours, you know?
GREENE: I have to ask you about Atlanta, which is a chapter in the book. It's Super Bowl weekend in 2000. You and a group had just left a Super Bowl party, and were at a club and leaving there. There was an altercation outside the club. You jumped into your limo with a group of people and drove away. And two guys were found stabbed and killed, and you were charged with double murder.
LEWIS: Yeah, it's funny because when everybody reads that story, when everybody know about it, it's always interesting that the first thing people go to is they always say, you was charged with double murder. But nobody ever want to say that from day one, there was not one inch of evidence on me. You know, I hear people bring up Atlanta like, oh, Atlanta's supposed to scare me. Atlanta doesn't scare me. Atlanta wakes me up, only to realize that, first of all, put your trust in no man, and second of all, man, you don't ever have to live like you're guilty when you know you're innocent.
GREENE: You did seem in this chapter in this book like you wanted to put the truth out there. But, you know, I feel compelled to point out for people, I mean, there's some facts missing. I mean, there was - there are things like blood found in your limo. There's the sports store where you're signing autographs with...
LEWIS: Yeah, but you're talking about - but...
GREENE: ...you know, with two guys who - you know, who...
LEWIS: See, but you're only talking about - you're only talking about facts that was already throughout the case - 100 percent.
LEWIS: There was not one ounce of blood that was not found on the same people that was in the fight - no different. None. So you talk about blood, but we're not talking about the facts because you're only coming from the perspective because you don't have a clue what happened that night.
GREENE: Sure, no.
LEWIS: So when you ask someone...
GREENE: But I guess I just want - like, so many of your fans - you know, they had read some of that stuff back during a time. You know, blood found in Ray Lewis' limousine. You know, at a sports when some guys were buying knives. I mean, do you feel like you offered enough in this book? You know, could you have brought up some of those details and really explained in your mind why...
LEWIS: You don't have to bring up - you have to bring up those details when you already lived it. The part that I brought up was the part that was left out. All the stuff you're talk about - it was all through the case. So if you really want to know about all that, go through the case, and you will find out all of that. And this is kind of how I leave Atlanta. Nobody ever has to convince me or ask me to prove myself to people. I don't prove myself to people. I don't live to prove myself to people. And I never will - never.
GREENE: But there are these two really powerful images of you out there. I mean, one is this devoutly religious man and proud father and a person who Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold-medal swimmer - I mean, he described you as the most inspirational person he has ever met in his life. And then there's the Ray Lewis who still people today, you know, will freely suggest is a murderer from what happened in Atlanta. I mean, is it hard to live with those two personas out there.
LEWIS: No. No. No, absolutely not. That's why I wrote the book - because who Michael Phelps knows, that's who Ray Lewis is. Everything else that you just said - no. Only thing I heard (laughter), honestly, that you said - out of the whole thing - was murder.
GREENE: You heard that one word because it bothers you.
LEWIS: Yeah, well, it bothers me because people - when they use it, they basically say to hell with the families. You know. but it shows you the insensitive side of people who, you know - and you can't please everybody, man. I don't ever try to please everybody in life, but I'll tell you this. There's enough people in this world that if you're living right and you're doing - I don't try to live perfect. I try to live right. And if you're living right, I guarantee you God will win every one of those battles for you. Yeah?
GREENE: Was this a hard book to write?
LEWIS: No. Hard was living it (laughter). Telling it now? No. I'm rejoicing from telling it. I adored writing this book because there was chapters in my life that - everybody seen my story, but nobody's ever heard my story told from my words.
GREENE: Well, Ray Lewis, I'm - it's really been nice talking to you. Thank you so much.
LEWIS: Absolutely, man. Thank you, buddy. Appreciate you.
MONTAGNE: And that was David Greene with former NFL star Ray Lewis, whose book "I Feel Like Going On" is out now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.