Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Why Does the Media Demonize Terrell Owens and Lionize Ray Lewis?

One member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2018 pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in an as yet unsolved double murder.

Another member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2018 did not make many friends in the media but he worked hard, played hurt and earned the respect of most of his teammates.

Guess which of these two men is regularly lionized by the media and which one of these two men is regularly demonized by the media?

Media members stumble over each other to heap praise on Ray Lewis, who at the very least actively participated in a coverup of the murders of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Sports Illustrated writer Robert Klemko is one of the few media members who has not sold out to the Lewis cult of personality (a "crime" for which Klemko was denied access to the Baltimore Ravens' locker room when Lewis was an active player). Klemko recently penned a scathing indictment of what he called "the bubble" that has protected Lewis from having to face questions or any kind of scrutiny regarding the serious crime for which he pled guilty and the even more serious crimes for which he may very well be guilty:
For 13 years, Ray Lewis had hidden from his history. He hid behind his talent. He hid behind his religion. Most effectively, he hid behind his team's PR staff. His case isn't rare. The league insulates players in protective bubbles, and in doing so creates its own warped sense of morality that reporters are expected to adhere to. In this bubble, a story about the lasting consequences of a player being convicted of obstruction of justice related to the death of two men can seem outlandish, even predatory on the part of the media organization. In the eyes of Ravens players and staffers, we were out to dirty Ray Lewis. They refused to acknowledge the way he'd dirtied himself and dodged questions in the public sphere for so long. For two far-away families, the deaths were devastating, life-altering events. To the Ravens, they were ancient history.
So Ray Lewis will now be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, having never addressed his actions in a way that wasn't stage-managed, mainly because he didn't have to. The NFL's public relations machine made that possible, by creating an environment that limits player availability and bullies reporters who attempt to hold rich, powerful men accountable for their misdeeds.
The fawning over Lewis is even more outrageous and baffling when it is compared to the abuse that is heaped upon Owens, whose most recent "crime" is deciding to not attend this year's Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony. Instead, Owens--one of the greatest receivers of all-time, who was twice denied Hall induction due to petty politics among the media voters--returned to his alma mater University of Tennessee at Chatanooga to give his acceptance speech and celebrate with his family, his friends, many of his former teammates, and others.

Media members assert that Owens was a divisive force in the locker room. Tell that to his San Francisco teammate Derrick Deese, who attended Owens' celebration and said before Owens' speech, "Once people hear him today and what he has to say, they’ll shut up." Deese knows that the media caricature of Owens bears little relationship to reality. The media stated that Owens' Philadelphia teammates hated him--but the reality is that when Deese went to Owens' birthday party during Owens' tenure with the Eagles over 40 of Owens' teammates were there. Deese knew that, contrary to media accounts, Owens was a good leader whose halftime speeches to his teammates echoed the kinds of speeches that Jerry Rice had once given.

One of Owens' former coaches, Ray Sherman, declared, "People often confuse anger with passion. I never knew an angry T.O. He was never defiant or disrespectful. He was honest."

Owens delivered a heartfelt, inspirational speech. He began by stating, "I'm here to speak truth to power. And power to truth." Later, Owens told anyone in the crowd who had ever felt like an outcast to stand up and he says the same thing to anyone who ever felt isolated, or misunderstood, or who had been "been lied on, mischaracterized." Eventually, everyone in the audience was standing and Owens said, "The entire speech you thought was about me—this was for you."

Ray Lewis won two Super Bowl titles and Terrell Owens did not win any but Owens is more of a champion in life--in what really matters as a human being--than Lewis will ever be. Shame on the media for painting such distorted portraits of both men, lionizing someone who covered up murder while demonizing a hard-working and dedicated competitor who never lost sight of what really matters.