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Ray Lewis talks murder charges, Freddie Gray, NFL disrespect in Cigar Aficionado interview

Ray Lewis paid a visit to the construction site of the Sagamore Pendry Baltimore Hotel on Recreation Pier in Fells Point. The workers held a topping off celebration for the placement of the last beam. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun video)

There is almost no demographic that does not want to read about football, which is why Cigar Aficionado, a magazine about cigars, is making NFL predictions and talking to former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis in its October issue.

The magazine, which hit newsstands Tuesday, features a wide-ranging interview with Lewis by Cigar Aficionado founder Marvin R. Shanken. Among the highlights is a discussion of the 2000 murder trial following the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar in Atlanta after a Super Bowl XXXIV party. Lewis was indicted on murder and aggravated-assault charges along with two companions but later had the charges dismissed as part of a plea deal.

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Atlanta detective Ken Allen told the magazine, "I don't think Ray Lewis murdered anybody," and Lewis said that what he had to go through "individually, as a person, not only prepared me for a journey that I couldn't predict, but it prepared me to go through one of the most controversial seasons in my life."

As for why he was charged in the first place, Lewis said: "Cowards exist at every level. ... People don't understand how cruel the world really is."

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The son of former Ravens great Ray Lewis was arrested Friday morning in South Carolina and charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Lewis said that while he was in jail for the first "seven, eight days," he ate only orange halves sneaked in to him by a friend. "If you saw the moldy bologna and things that they were trying to ... I was not an animal. And I was not going to succumb to that," he told the magazine.

Lewis was similarly outspoken about the NFL and the NCAA.

"The NFL is the only sport that tells you the higher you go, the less we respect you," he said. "I beg to differ. I am greater than I will ever be than when I was playing. Why? Because I do it for me."

Amateurism rules also bother Lewis. In college, Ray Lewis was a star for Miami, but "there's no game if you don't have athletes, so why aren't we paid?"

Lewis was asked about his commitment to helping improve race relations and limit police brutality after incidents like the death of Freddie Gray, who died from a neck injury while in the custody of Baltimore police last year.

"I'm on the ground now," he said. "I won't stop. ...There's a war that Jim Brown, Ali, that all those guys passed down to me. Why? Because I think everybody in the streets, everybody knows who I'm for, what I'm for and what I stand for. I hold these conversations at my house to enlighten people on life. Marv, I do more for people in broken neighborhoods than probably anybody you'll know. And you won't find one camera."

Why hasn't the government stepped in? "Because they don't know what it feels like. They don't walk the streets. You know what America has told us? Make it out and don't go back."

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