On my Twitter account I asked why ESPN wasn’t using Ray Lewis to give insight on the Aaron Hernandez case. People assumed I was being funny, but I was being serious.
If anyone could understand what Hernandez might be thinking right now in his jail cell it is Ray Lewis. Lewis was accused of murder back in 2000 and eventually worked out a plea deal where he turned state’s evidence against his co-defendants and pleaded guilty to an obstruction of justice charge, so he wouldn’t serve any jail time (the two men accused of the murder were found innocent).
From an analyst standpoint that makes him more qualified than anyone at ESPN. I believe Lewis could speak on a presumption of innocence and not rushing to judgment. He could speak on the differences and similarities between his situation and Hernandez’s current predicament. It would give him a lot of credibility as someone new to media, if he didn’t run away from the subject. For their part ESPN emailed me to say that Ray hasn’t officially started his duties at ESPN and therefore wouldn’t be available.
As the NFL and Patriots started to distance themselves away from Hernandez, I started to see more comparisons being made between Lewis and Hernandez in the public and media.
The #1 compliant went something like this.
“The NFL and Ravens didn’t treat Ray Lewis like they are treating Aaron Hernandez.”
That is true, but there are reasons for that.
First and foremost, media coverage is different in 2013 than it was in 2000. Social media was non existent and online media was in its infancy. Most people got their sports news from ESPN and newspapers. I remember when this happened in 2000 and it was all over ESPN, but that was it. You didn’t have the 24/7 news coverage like you do now. You didn’t have the up to the minute reports. Teams didn’t have the pressure of fans being able to express themselves in a medium like Twitter, YouTube or Facebook.
I haven’t gotten one piece of news about Aaron Hernandez from ESPN. I was able to stream Hernandez’s arraignment from my computer, take notes and write my story without having to wait for an evening news wrap up. That wasn’t possible 13 years ago. It wasn’t possible for everyone to know every single detail about a case from the moment it started, until the day it concludes. That is possible now thanks to new age media.
If Ray Lewis was accused of the same crime in 2013, I think things may have turned out a little differently for him. I believe things like the missing white suit, his failure to originally cooperate with police and his actions immediately after the crime would have gotten a lot more media attention. Also, police forensics have improved tremendously in the last 13 years, to the point maybe Lewis would have been exonerated or convicted quickly because of it.
Roger Goodell wasn’t around back then, teams weren’t as quick to abandon players when they had criminal issues. They were more willing to let play it out. Lewis’ incident happened during Super Bowl Week, Lewis was a star player, the Ravens had time. Remember, the Falcons held on the Michael Vick’s rights until he got out of prison, that would have happened in 2013.
The second and most important thing are two crimes are different.
Even if you believe Ray Lewis killed someone, it was something that happened in the heat of the moment after brawl outside of the club and some would consider it self-defense. His actions immediately afterwards could be seen as panic actions, not premeditated. Before that moment Ray Lewis had no history of violence and he hasn’t been in trouble since then.
If you believe Aaron Hernandez killed someone, it was a planned and calculated execution of an unarmed man. There have been reports that Hernandez may have been involved in shootings in the past and he is currently being investigated for a double murder in 2012.
The only common denominators between the two is someone lost their life, they are football players and there are people who think they did it. Murder isn’t something that can be rationalized, but if you are going to compare, at least understand all the facts. If Lewis murdered someone he should be in jail, but there are specific reasons why they aren’t being treated the same by the league and their franchises.
It’s just a different world that we live in now. You don’t get the benefit of the doubt anymore, especially if you are an athlete. Teams, media and fans don’t want to see how things are going to play out, they are going to be judge, jury and executioner in an expedited fashion.
So, fairly or unfairly you can’t compare Ray Lewis to Aaron Hernandez, no more than you can compare Michael Vick to Ben Roethlisberger. Times have changed and what was swept under the rug 13 years ago, isn’t going to happen now. Maybe, Aaron Hernandez should have thought about that before he made the decisions that has currently landed him in jail.