Nineteen years ago, Ray Lewis, the legendary Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker, and a couple of friends were arrested outside of an Atlanta nightclub on charges of stabbing two men to death. The most serious charges were dropped and he pled guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of justice.
Now Lewis, 43, a Super Bowl champion, NFL Hall of Famer and a sportscaster, has spent nearly two decades rebuilding his reputation. Next weekend, he will once again converge in Atlanta to witness the Super Bowl, and to promote healing, using his celebrity status to bring exposure to his Ray of Hope Foundation– which solicits hopeful messages from celebrities and athletes to send to those in need– and raise money for his foundation.
The Gold Jacket Party for a Purpose is expected to attract dozens of professional athletes and celebrities. Lewis explained to The Associated Press that it draws out the real reason why he is doing this: to help others.
“Purpose is forever,” Lewis told The Associated Press. “The game comes and goes but purpose is forever.”
Lewis and friends, Joseph Sweeting and Reginald Oakley, were charged with killing Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar after a nightclub party following the St. Louis Rams’ win over the Tennessee Titans. One of the victim’s blood was found in Lewis’ limo. The state dropped murder and aggravated assault charges against Lewis when he agreed to testify against Sweeting and Oakley, who were acquitted.
Lewis received one year probation and a $250,000 fine by the NFL. He also settled two lawsuits with family members of Baker and Lollar’s families.
There hasn’t been a Super Bowl in Atlanta since 2000. Now, the Atlanta Falcons have a brand new $1.5 billion stadium and the NFL will be hosting its big game in the city.
However, Lewis says he frequently returns to the city for personal reasons, according to The New York Daily News.
“My sisters live in Atlanta,” Lewis told The Daily News. “I’ve been in Atlanta for years, all over Atlanta.”
Rob Vaka, an Atlanta-based financial adviser who heads up the Ray of Hope Foundation with Lewis, told ESPN that his wife was initially skeptical about him working with Lewis until she did her own research into the case and said “what I heard is not accurate.”
Vaka added to ESPN, “At some point you have to make a decision I’m going to move on and I’m going to forgive, whether I have all of the facts or some of the facts. … I believe he’s a terrific human being.”
Former NFL standouts such as Jim Brown, Deion Sanders, Ed Reed and Eddie George, as well as current players, including Grady Jackson and Austin Hooper of the Atlanta Falcons, are expected to attended the foundation event.