The Ray Lewis and ESPN rumors are now reality, according to the sports cable channel.
Deadline said it “was not the best-kept secret,” amid previous reports that the outspoken and controversial figure, fresh off his Super Bowl victory with the Baltimore Ravens, would join the network.
On Wednesday, both parties made it official issuing statements celebrating the deal.
Lewis said ESPN was “such a big part of how fans watch and experience sports, especially the NFL,” and emphasized his excitement at joining the network.
“I’m ready to bring the same level of passion to this next phase of my life as I brought to the field during my years as a player. I can’t wait to work with my new teammates, many of whom I’ve already known for years,” Lewis said.
John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice-president of production, agreed.
“Ray is a tremendous addition to our NFL roster and he will have an immediate impact on our coverage … One of the most accomplished players in NFL history, fans will be drawn to his knowledge, experience and, of course, the passion he always exudes for the game,” Wildhack said.
Lewis will not immediately be joining the Monday Night Football crew, but he will appear on Monday Night Countdown, Sunday NFL Countdown, and SportsCenter, the network reported.
He will also join the MNF travel crew, so a future on the broadcast is not outside the realm of possibility.
Lewis’ NFL career included two Super Bowl championships, 12 Pro Bowl appearances, and the Baltimore Ravens record-holder for tackles (2,643), games played (228), and fumble recoveries (31).
His career has also not escaped controversy. In 2000, during the weekend of his first Super Bowl, Lewis was implicated in the stabbing deaths of two men, Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker.
Despite public sentiment at the time, Baltimore Sun crime reporters noted that the prosecution’s case was “awful” and that “there was more evidence that Lewis had tried to stop two men in his partying entourage from engaging in the fight that resulted in the stabbing deaths of Baker and Lollar.”
Questions have persisted about Lewis’ involvement and his character for more than a decade. In February 2013, it was reported that despite an annual salary of around $7.2 million, Lewis did not contribute to his own charity.
Are you for the Ray Lewis, ESPN union? How do you view the charges that have dogged Lewis’ career?