Ryan Clark's tweet comparing Ray Lewis and Ben Roethlisberger is off-base

Joe Sargent

Steelers free safety Ryan Clark is entitled to his opinion, and it's a valid opinion to have, but the allegations against Ravens LB Ray Lewis and Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger are not mutually exclusive.

How many stories are written each year in which the name "Ryan Clark" and the word "Tweet" or some variation thereof are in the lead?

A few, at least.

Not that it's a bad thing. It's usually compelling discussion. The Steelers' loquacious free safety isn't one to shy from expressing his opinion, regardless of the topic. He weighs in on high school athletes choosing Louisville over his alma mater, LSU, and how his favorite hoops team, the Los Angeles Lakers are doing.

He even recently decided to point out what he feels is hypocrisy behind the forever linked criminal situations involving Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and soon-to-be-retiring Ravens LB Ray Lewis.

It got attention from Deadspin recently, and for justifiable reasons. One player speaking out in favor of a marquee player of his team's rival is certainly something that will be noticed.

And Clark's motives are his own. He seems more the buddy-buddy type - as displayed in this humorous video in which Clark sneaked into the Ravens locker room after Baltimore defeated Pittsburgh 13-10 in Week 11, and partook in the media interview of Ed Reed at his locker. Reed and Clark grew up together in Louisiana, and Clark's question was about how he felt about a "rumor that you are not the best safety in metro New Orleans, and that it really was the kid from Shaw, who was discriminated against because he was skinny?'

Reed bursts out laughing when he sees him, complete with digital recorder, as part of the media pool.

It's sometimes good to be reminded the athletes themselves can't possible share the same kind of passion for our teams. It doesn't mean that passion is any less intensely competitive, it's just different. Many of them, like Clark portrays in the video, have loyalties toward their hometowns and regions, and their colleges. Not many of them have more than one opportunity to choose the team for which they'd play, and it's rare when being a free agent is a good thing.

So it's understandable why Clark comes to the defense of at least one of his NFL colleagues. His tweet speaks against those whom he feels are vilifying Ray Lewis while still being upset when fans of other teams mention the allegations against Roethlisberger from two separate women involving incidents in Nevada and Georgia.

It's hard to argue with the general sentiment Clark is expressing, and it's highly unlikely he means anything deeper than to express a message of hypocrisy. He's right; it's hard for Steelers fans to attack Ray Lewis for the allegations surrounding the night of Jan. 31, 2000, in which a scuffle he admitted to participating in (to be a peacekeeper, in his words) resulted in the murder of two men by multiple stab wounds while being upset over people bringing up alleged criminal misconduct by Roethlisberger.

But those things are not mutually exclusive.

Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for telling those in his party to not say anything to police about what happened in exchange for his testimony against two of his friends. Both were found not guilty.

The Deadspin article itself incorrectly (perhaps libelously) calls Roethlisberger a "noted rapist." Noted, perhaps in the eyes of those who don't cheer for Roethlisberger or the Steelers, or perhaps from people who feel the lack of evidence or charge against him does not preclude the possibility he raped those women.

The article, in the same paragraph, also labels Lewis as a "noted accessory-to-murder," which is as criminally incorrect as calling Roethlisberger a rapist, but if nothing else, closer to reality in circumstantial evidence.

Lewis is not a "noted accessory to murder." He was arrested in connection to two murders, and wasn't tried, agreeing to plead guilty to obstruction of justice in exchange for his testimony against the two men they tried for murder. And both were found not guilty.

Roethlisberger is not a "noted rapist." He's a man who was accused by two separate women of rape, only one of whom brought that accusation to police. He was never criminally charged in either case.

Before we put our Johnnie Cochran hats on, we'll get back to the point at hand. I respect Ryan Clark's opinion, and he has the right to it, just as I have the right to mine, and everyone else to theirs.

My opinion, Ray Lewis and Ben Roethlisberger have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Their situations, though well-publicized (and now possibly linked to a legitimate argument of libel against Deadspin), are not linked together because they're players of rival teams who have come under public scrutiny for criminal allegations.

Just because an accuser says it's true does not mean it's true. Just because Ryan Clark feels the need to point out hypocrisy does not mean it exists.

What I know is true is it is just as silly to suggest we should continue looking at Ray Lewis's career without mentioning those charges and pleas as it will be bringing up the allegations against Roethlisberger upon his retirement.

And I hate to break it to Ryan Clark, but this is not a Steelers vs. Ravens thing. It's a mere coincidence they're linked together because of those accusations because of the teams for which they've both played their entire careers. Fans can hate on Lewis and Roethlisberger for the things they're accused of doing, but there's a difference between hating on Lewis the Ravens linebacker and Lewis the person, just as Roethlisberger the Steelers quarterback isn't viewed in the same light as Roethlisberger the person.

Clark's comments are myopic, and that short-sighted view is exacerbated by a poorly written article in a major publication, aimed to perpetuate the idea these players are linked like Bobby Thompson and Ralph Branca, and Franco Harris and Phil Villapiano.

The fact is not every media outlet needs to simply praise Lewis's outstanding legacy as a professional football player. Roethlisberger will be forever linked to allegations, too, and whether you feel that's right or wrong is a separate argument. But the legacy of both players will, and should, include references to those events.

One didn't happen because of the other, and neither have any connection to each other.


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