More than two weeks after Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis sat down in an interview with ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio, discussing repercussions of the NFL lockout, there still remains a heated debate in many communities across the country, over several remarks Lewis made about the absence of football and a rise in crime around the nation.
Most individuals opposed to Lewis’ connection between the current lockout and an uptick in crime, call it the latest case of fear mongering from a high-profile athlete and the union he belongs to, the NFL Players Association, which was decertified back on March 11, 2011, after failing to resolve current labor disputes.
Lewis’ most controversial comment came early on in the interview with Paolantonio.
“Do this research if we don’t have a season—watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up, if you take away our game,” Lewis said.
Like it or not, Lewis has a point, and we’ve taken the liberty to do our own research on the relationship between unemployment and the incidence of crime.
First, and possibly the most important distinction in Lewis’ array of comments on crime, is the fact Lewis was referring mainly to inner-city populations, where transgressions are most likely to take place, especially with the absence of any outside stimuli.
“There's too many people that live through us, people live through us,” Lewis told Paolantonio, “Yeah, walk in the streets, the way I walk the streets, and I'm not talking about the people you see all the time.”
This statement particularly holds true to a large majority of inner-city populations that are employed by stadiums and other facilities directly connected to the NFL. Most of these people rely on Sunday for a paycheck, working at concession stands, in maintenance, as security guards, or the dozens of other employment opportunities the NFL brings to individual communities all year long.
Without a paycheck in-hand, it’s not illogical to believe people, in essence, laid-off, because of the labor dispute, might resort to more insidious means of obtaining money in order to maintain the lifestyle they were accustomed to.
Most research studies conducted between 1970 until present, which aimed at looking into the correlation between high unemployment and crime, concluded that the rate of crime around the country increased during hard times.
According to the Justice Policy Institute, an individual think tank, eight out of the 10 most dangerous cities in the United States have unemployment rates well above the national average (5.1% back in 2005).
Baltimore ranked No. 2 on the list of most dangerous cities, with an unemployment rate of 7.1 percent in 2005.
Although violent crime has slightly been on the decline during the past decade, in the inner cities of the United States, it is easy to see the relationship between high unemployment and the increase in violent crime.
Recently, Ravens RB Ray Rice came to the defense of Lewis over his comments on the NFL and crime.
“Any time Ray [Lewis] speaks about something, it comes from his heart,” Rice said. “He hit on a point where people are really struggling. It doesn’t necessarily have to be us that are struggling because we might make a few more dollars than other people. But what about the people that work in the concession stands? What about the people that work at the facility that had to take pay cuts? What about the people that got laid off?”
Rice’s remarks speak directly to the point we are trying to make about the absence of football and crime—the same sentiment Lewis expressed and continues to stand by.
“I found out on my twitter page, other people saying things like ‘I’m a Steelers fan, but what Ray Lewis says makes sense.’ Because it’s about the game,” Rice said.
“It’s about you taking people’s livelihood away, not just our livelihood. Some people, their Sundays aren’t the same without us. I was touched by it. I was moved by the whole thing. Regardless of any situation, I’m always going to stick by the players,” Rice concluded.
It’s clear that Lewis and Rice understand that a lockout will hurt an already fragile economy, but it’s now time to set their words into motion by working with owners to come to an agreement, so the fate of the 2011 season doesn’t come down to a lone judge’s decision.
The power is in the hands of the players, including Ray Lewis.
Todd McGregor is a Baltimore Ravens Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
Follow Todd on Twitter! Twitter.com/ravens023