Stop Treating Him Like He is…

It’s time we put an end to the notion that Ray Lewis is the spokesperson for the Black people of Baltimore.

Ray has done a ton of good in the Baltimore City community, from helping build houses to funding food drives for the less privileged. But he’s never been a mouthpiece for the Baltimore community, and I honestly think he doesn’t knows how to be one, nor wants to be.  

Former Baltimore Ravens Linebacker, Ray Lewis. (AP PHOTO/DAVID GOLDMAN, FILE)

I don’t believe Ray Lewis was ever interested in speaking on the political issues of the people.  I remember nearly 10 years ago, in 2008, I was covering the Baltimore Ravens on behalf of the AFRO, and I decided to do a piece asking where the Ravens’ locker room stood in the presidential race between then-Senator Barack Obama and his opponent, Senator John McCain. Remember, this was before President Obama was President Obama. At that time, he was just Senator Obama, a Black man with an African name, running for an office that no Black man had ever won before. Many people simply couldn’t believe he would win until he did. 

So, I waited until after a big Ravens win at home late in October 2008, when the players were in a great mood, and asked several players in the locker room who were they voting for: Obama or McCain?   

Former Ravens star receiver Derrick Mason gave me a great quote that I went on to use in my article. D-Mason was always an eloquent speaker and spoke to how the country had a lot of work to do to reach full social and racial equality, and how he believed President Obama was the right person to lead us there.  

I also asked Ravens star linebacker Terrell Suggs who he was voting for. Suggs, in his unique style, laughed and said, “you know who I’m voting for!” I assumed he was voting for Obama, and I was right. 

But of course, I needed the voice of the locker room, Ray Lewis. Who would the leader of the team be voting for? So I asked him, and he smiled at me and said, “c’mon kid, you know I’m not going there,” and walked off. 

That’s when I learned firsthand that Ray Lewis appeared to be more Michael Jordan than Jim Brown. In other words, Lewis seemed like the type that preferred to stay quiet on political issues, maintaining neutrality, as Jordan had famously done, rather than as Brown had done, use his platform as a high profile figure to speak out on issues that may benefit a group of people at the risk of offending another. 

Perhaps, Ray wasn’t going to “rock the conveyor belt” on his way to the top. Maybe he wanted no part of anything that could be controversial to his own brand. And that’s okay. That’s his choice. I can understand that. 

I understand who Ray is and who he isn’t. Ray is inarguably the greatest player in the history of the Ravens franchise. He’s widely considered one of the greatest leaders in all of sports, and he has two world championships to show for it.  But the only reason I even know or care who Ray Lewis is, is because he was a great professional football player. And the only reason I was ever his fan is because he played for a team based in a state I’m proudly from and a city I lived half my life in.  

But Ray didn’t become famous as an activist fighting for the people of Baltimore, and he was never our spokesperson. Let’s not forget that. 

Oddly enough, though, it seems as if Ray is constantly ushered front and center to speak on behalf of Black people every time anything controversial happens in the Baltimore community. 

During the protests against police brutality in Baltimore back in 2015, every major news organization reported on Ray Lewis telling people to stop rioting in the streets, as if he had any influence over those people.  

When reports surfaced that the Ravens were interested in signing Colin Kaepernick, it was again Ray Lewis who was put in front of the cameras on Fox Sports 1’s “Undisputed” to explain why the free agent quarterback hadn’t been signed yet, as if he would have the magic words to alleviate the doubts of anyone suspecting that the Ravens could be one of the NFL teams black-balling Kaepernick for taking a knee during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality last season. 

That didn’t go quite so well for Ray, as he made bit of a fool of himself during a passionate debate on the topic on live TV with former Ravens teammate and current fellow Fox Sports One commentator Shannon Sharpe, who has spoken as eloquently as anyone when it comes to discussing the social injustices of our country. Lewis went so far as to say that police brutality is a problem, but not one that NFL owners or Kaepernick should take a stance on–comments he reiterated in a subsequent Twitter video, in which he advised Kaepernick to keep his activism to himself. On the FS1 program, Sharpe fired back that NFL owners will never have to face issues such as those Kaepernick is protesting, and that he (Kaepernick) is the best available option to serve as the Ravens backup QB and should therefore be given a fair chance, all other (protest) issues aside.

If you haven’t noticed yet, Ray Lewis is one of those speakers who possesses great enthusiasm but never really says much. I’ve known that about him for quite some time, having closely followed and reported on him and the Ravens for so many years. But it appears the rest of the world is starting to see that about him now that he’s spending his retirement as a TV sports commentator.

Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t the fiery pre-game speeches that made Ray a great leader. Half of those speeches, Ray was saying a bunch of nothing. He just said it with conviction and passion. It was Ray’s preparation off the field and his play on the field that made him such a masterful captain. He truly led by example.  

But that’s all football related. And football is just a game.  

This is real life.  

Giving great motivational speeches to your teammates and leading them on the field doesn’t qualify you to represent the people of Baltimore in the socio-political arena. I hope Ray finds a way to understand that, but more importantly, I hope the people that think he represents the voice of the people of Baltimore, find a way to understand they’re wrong. Maybe then we’ll finally start to hear less of Ray and more from the voices of the activists that are actually engaged with the people of the city.