The Ravens surely meant well when they embarked on a slow-motion, public deliberation regarding whether to sign quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The process nevertheless has become farcical at times, with unreasonable fear of the reaction to signing him causing paralysis by analysis, ultimately inviting anyone and everyone with an opinion on the matter to contact the organization and make their views known.
Adding to the confusion has been the team’s injection of former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis into the process. Presumably done in the hopes that the Lewis imprimatur would make it easier to get reluctant Ravens fans to accept Kaepernick, the team overlooked the possibility that Lewis would choose to talk publicly about Kaepernick — and that Lewis would say things that don’t really make a whole lot of sense.
It’s the latest example of Lewis mistaking charm, charisma, cadence, and inflection for substance. That habit of saying in a compelling way words that when transcribed send a rambling, unclear message marred his career at ESPN, and it has now reared its head twice this week.
During a Monday appearance on FS1, Lewis and Shannon Sharpe engaged in a debate that featured both men speaking but only one of them actually saying anything. On Tuesday, Lewis separately tried make his point without being constantly pummeled against the ropes, in a video that he recorded in his car and posted on Twitter.
I’ve now listened to it three times (the video appears below), and I’m not sure what Ray’s point is. The broader goal, apparently, was to talk his way out of the criticism he has absorbed for whatever he was trying to say when discussing the issue on FS1. But when typing up and looking at the actual words he uttered in the new video, I don’t know what he was trying to say.
“If they really wanna help you, they’ll pray for you, brother,” Lewis says at one point. “They’ll lead you the right way and stop encouraging you to be caught up in some of this nonsense. The battles you are fighting, brother, people way before has been fighting these for many, many, many years.”
What nonsense is Lewis referring to? Given that some people think everything Kaepernick did last season is nonsense, precision is crtical. What does Ray Lewis specifically contend to be the “nonsense” in which Kaepernick was caught up?
Lewis ultimately offers this advice to Kaepernick: “The football field is our sanctuary. If you do nothing else, young man, get back on the football field and let your play speak for itself. And what you do off the field, don’t let too many people know, because they’re gonna judge you anyway. No matter what you do. No matter if it’s good or bad.”
Obviously, Kaepernick can’t get back onto the football field until someone offers him a job. The notion that he should, once he’s playing again, keep his non-football interests a secret is confusing, at best.
Plenty of players have issues and causes and foundations that they support in their spare time. The fact that the players have the platform of pro sports gives those issues and causes and foundations even more exposure. With Kaepernick committed to not using the sidelines as a platform for demonstration in 2017, why should he also take his off-field efforts to improve society underground?
On an issue where nearly everyone has a strong view at either end of the spectrum, Ray Lewis seems to be the one person who is trying to have it both ways, supporting Kaepernick while simultaneously wagging a finger at him, apparently in the hopes of pleasing everyone and/or offending no one.
Ray’s words are actually a microcosm of the team’s effort to decide what to do about Kaepernick, creating a conflicting, contradictory stew of comments and views and observations that careen around the room and never reach a conclusion. The problem is that, for both Lewis and the Ravens, this clumsy effort to please everyone and/or offend no one eventually going to please no one and/or offend everyone.