Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Would social media have forced the Ravens to cut Ray Lewis back in 2000?

On ESPN's Monday Night Countdown show yesterday, Suzy Kolber suggested to Ray Lewis that people would try to draw comparisons between the Ravens cutting Ray Rice, but standing behind Lewis during his trial 14 years ago.  For anybody who doesn't remember, a pair of murder charges against Lewis were eventually dropped in exchange for him pleading guilty to obstruction of justice and testifying against two people who were with him on the night of a double homicide in Atlanta in January of 2000 (here's a link to a detailed description of the events).

Lewis responded to Kolber's question by saying "There's no comparison...It's night and day of anything we've ever been through...both situations are totally different."  I assume a large portion of people watching thought it was a ridiculous response from Lewis.  I'd expect a significant number of fans (including myself) think Lewis actually is guilty of murder.

However, I do in fact agree with Lewis' remarks about the situations he and Rice have each been through being "night and day"--in 2000 Lewis didn't have to worry about the impact of social media.

When the video of Rice striking his fiancee got out early Monday morning (and I'm not even going to bother discussing the internet's role in that), the outraged responses on Twitter and Facebook were everywhere.

There's no doubt that seeing these reactions from the public played a huge role in Baltimore's decision to let Rice go.  For anyone qestioning the impact of Twitter, the Ravens even chose to use it as the platform to announce Rice's release.

Last summer when word began to break of the impending charges against Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots immediately cut him to minimize their publicity nightmare as much as possible.

Now imagine the Lewis murder trial from the summer of 2000 happening today.  The constant backlash on the internet in response to the Ravens' support of Lewis would be overwhelming.  It seems next to impossible that he could manage to stay on the team; even the resulting obstruction of justice verdict would likely be enough to get him cut on it's own.

Just last week Baltimore unveiled a statue of Lewis outside of M&T Bank Stadium, and team owner Steve Bisciotti called him "the greatest linebacker of all time."  Luckily for Lewis he played in an era where people didn't spend half their day looking at their smart phones.  That's the only reason you can't compare Rice's situation to his.

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