Twelve years ago, a budding NFL star was ferried 600 miles by rented limousine to Atlanta, site of the Super Bowl, for a week of late-night revelry.
In the early hours of the morning after the game, two men were stabbed to death outside a nightclub. The player was arrested and charged with murder.
Six months later, the murder charges were dropped and he pled guilty to a misdemeanour charge of obstructing justice and was sentenced to 12 months of probation.
To this day, the degree of his role in the killings is unclear.
Now, the Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis is one Ravens loss from retirement. Passionate until the end, he will bow out on a wave of admiration from fans, as well as from media who will fast-track Lewis into the Pro Football Hall of Fame at his earliest moment of eligibility.
People are complex. Most of them mature with time. Beforehand, fame and money can steer them into harmful dances with stupidity.
Given the cloudiness of the murder case, which ended with the acquittal of Lewis's two companions despite his testimony against them, there is no easy answer on whether it should tarnish his legacy.
But the fact that Lewis escaped meaningful punishment does not mean his involvement, no matter how slight it might have been, should be summarily dismissed.
It should remain a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that forms Ray Lewis.
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