Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens linebacker, is Super Bowl-bound at the close of the final season of his professional career, but many people are debating about whether his questionable past warrants the praise he is receiving.
Lewis, 37-year-old Ravens veteran who has served the team with 17 seasons and 13 Pro Bowl appearances, has been vocal about his Christian faith which has become even more highly publicized throughout his final playoff run. After a recent return from a torn right tricep injury that occurred last October, Lewis began the new year by announcing that God had told him to retire so that he could spend time with his children.
Since then, the linebacker and his team have been plowing through each team they have faced in the playoffs while Lewis has been glorifying God after advancing past each team. After the Ravens 24-9 win over the Colts in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, Lewis pulled off his jersey to reveal a sleeveless black shirt that read "Psalms 91."
"I'll tell anybody. One thing about God's will, you can never see God's will before it happens," Lewis told a room full of media personnel after the win. "You can only see at the end of it. For His will to happen this way, I could never ask for anything else."
Lewis and the Ravens went on to defeat the Denver Broncos the following week, earning them a chance to face off against the New England Patriots for Lewis' chance to win a second Super Bowl ring before ending his professional career.
During the singing of the National Anthem at the AFC Championship game , Lewis was shown tearfully mouthing what looked to be the phrase "thank you my father" before his team bested the New England Patriots 28-13. After the big win, Lewis did not hesitate to glorify God yet again.
"I just said that God doesn't make mistakes." Lewis said after earning a spot in Super Bowl XLVII. "He's never made one mistake. There was no way that He was going to bring us back here twice to feel that same feeling. We're back, but this time we're on our way to the Super Bowl."
Despite making headlines for his performance on the way to the Super Bowl, various media outlets and NFL fans could not forget that the linebacker was making headlines for a completely different reason 13 years ago. Although Lewis was named the MVP after helping the Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV for the 2000 season, that same year he was indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges.
The Buffalo News recently reached out to Priscilla Lollar, the mother of one of the two victims who were slain in the double-murder that Lewis and his two associates were once charged with committing. Although Lewis later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and apologized to the people who were affected by the tragedy, many are not letting him forget what happened 13 years ago.
"Some people are evil, and I think he's an ...I don't know. He's an uncaring person," Lollar told The York Daily Record that also questioned Lewis' persona in a report with a headline that read "Ravens' Ray Lewis doesn't deserve fans' honor or respect."
Anna Burns Welker, the wife of the Patriots receiver Wes Welker, went on a tirade about Lewis' past when her husband's team lost against the Ravens in the AFC Championship game.
"By the way, if anyone is bored, please go to Ray Lewis' Wikipedia page. (Six) kids 4 wives. Acquitted for murder. Paid a family off. Yay," Welker wrote on Facebook before later offering a public apology. "What a hall of fame player! A true role model!"
Although Mrs. Welker admitted that her competitive nature got the best of her, the Boston Globe recently backed her up in an editorial titled, "Anna Burns Welker wasn't gracious about Ray Lewis, but don't deny player's history."
While various NFL fans have agreed that Lewis' journey to the Super Bowl should not make him exempt from being accountable for his past, many others believe that he is being treated unfairly.
"I don't understand why Ray Lewis' past, that no one even knows the truth about, has anything to do with the fact that he's a good football player," one person tweeted.
Another person thought the way Lewis was being treated was crazy.
"It's crazy when @raylewis said he was retiring it was cool but now that he is on his way to the superbowl people want to bring up the past," the fan tweeted.
One Christian Post reader was amazed at the scrutiny that Lewis was enduring after overcoming his past mistakes and giving his life to God.
"It is amazing to me that just because someone has made a few mistakes in judgement in the past that their Christianity has got to now be scrutinized by others for the rest of their lives. The man's children are pretty much grown now so his 'lapses in judgement' that resulted in '6 children by 4 women' is obviously a part of his past...a past that neither you nor I know for sure has been repented of, and it is none of our business if it has or hasn't for that matter," the CP reader wrote. "One of the most basic principles of Christianity is forgiveness of sins, grace and mercy...not perfection."
Whether Lewis is being treated unfairly or not, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has said he is in awe of how far Lewis' faith has helped the linebacker overcome his past.
"I'm just feeling an incredible amount of awe in the work that God can do in one man's life. To me, Ray is the epitome of that. Ray is a guy that has turned everything over. He's surrendered everything and become the man that he is today and he's a different man than he was at 22," Harbaugh said of Lewis."
"Everybody sees that right now and it's a great thing for kids to see, it's a great thing for fathers to see. It's a great thing for athletes to see," Harbaugh added.