Tagliabue Says Lewis Has Suffered

Wednesday, July 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — Ray Lewis has suffered enough, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Wednesday in explaining why he did not suspend the All-Pro linebacker who pleaded guilty to obstructing justice in a murder case.

``It's the courts who have the primary responsibility in this case,'' Tagliabue said. ``We're not a substitute for the courts.''

Lewis pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing justice in a deal with Atlanta prosecutors, who dropped murder charges against the Baltimore Ravens' star.

``The offense was a misdemeanor. ... He had no problems before that and hadn't violated league policies,'' Tagliabue said. ``I felt he had suffered a lot and paid a high price, both in terms of reputation and the trauma that was caused. This thing served to teach him and others a lesson.''

Lewis was charged in the aftermath of a post-Super Bowl brawl outside an Atlanta night club in which two men were stabbed to death.

He interrupted his trial last month to plead guilty to a misdemeanor for telling his two codefendants to keep their mouths shut and also for not telling the police the full truth. He then testified against the two other men and received a year's probation.

The other men were eventually acquitted.

Tagliabue made his comments on a conference call to publicize the return of almost all living Hall of Fame members for induction ceremonies in Canton, Ohio, the weekend of July 28-31.

But he inevitably was asked about a year of offseason problems involving NFL players.

In addition to Lewis, former Carolina wide receiver Rae Carruth has been charged with murder and is awaiting trial, and former Green Bay tight end Mark Chmura is awaiting trial on charges of sexual assault after his children's 17-year-old baby-sitter accused him of having sex with her without her consent.

And two weeks ago, Indianapolis running back Fred Lane was shot in his home in Charlotte, N.C., after a dispute with his wife. No charges have been filed.

Tagliabue said those cases seem to have made other players aware of how easy it is for public figures to get into trouble. Lewis noted that himself when he spoke at a seminar for rookies that highlighted the pitfalls of fame.

``Players now know that you can't control chain reactions that can occur when you don't expect them to,'' Tagliabue said. ``You can be an innocent player in a group, or a posse, or whatever and suddenly find yourself in the midst of trouble without doing anything to cause it.''

Tagliabue also suggested that perhaps professional athletes should not be looked to as role models.

``Start looking within your own family,'' he said. ``There are role models in all walks of life — policemen, people who have worked their way through school, teachers and coaches, not necessarily professional athletes.''