As the clock wound down in the countdown to NFL free agency late Thursday afternoon, Ray Lewis’ agent Ira Rainess told a group of law students his client’s ties to Baltimore went deeper than a football contract.
A partner with Rainess in Team 52 Development LLC, Lewis is an equity partner in the city’s Gateway South, a mixed-use sports, retail and office space project that will include an educational and mentoring center named for Lewis.
After Lewis avoided a charge for attempted murder in 2000, Rainess said the linebacker came to him to work on how to get active in the community and teach kids how to not go down the wrong path.
“I meet with the city every one or two weeks to talk about issues in Baltimore where they need his help,” Rainess said at a sports law symposium hosted by the University of Baltimore School of Law, his alma mater. “Ray makes his home here; his commitment to the city is as good as any athlete I’ve ever seen.”
Rainess also told students he believed that public/private development projects such as Gateway South are the wave of the future for athletes who want to be involved in their communities.
But for how long will Lewis remain a part of the Baltimore community and what will happen to his share of the redevelopment if he leaves?
“We are invested in the city,” said Rainess. “But at the end of the day, whatever decisions are made he’ll support the projects.”
Maybe so. But the Ray of Hope Center will feel more like the False Ray of Hope Center if Lewis is living in Dallas or New York and only showing up in street clothes during the off season. The same goes for his restaurant, Full Moon Barbeque in Canton.
Is it worth it for the Ravens to pay more than owner Steve Bisciotti probably wants in order to preserve these relationships?
LIZ FARMER, Business Writer