O.J. has to feel like hes been given a raw deal in this whole thing, especially when he looks at Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, a fellow acquitted double-murderer, but one that managed to escape the publics cruel judgment. Lewis, who was charged in the stabbing deaths of two men at a post-Super Bowl party in Atlanta in 2000, used the brilliant legal device known as the plea agreement to worm his way out of a conviction. He has since continued his NFL career and most recently signed endorsement deals with Reebok and EA Sports. It makes you think that Lewis appearing with his mother in a Campbells Chunky Soup commercial isnt far behind. Or, perhaps, a United Way spot for the NFL? (Voice over: This is Baltimore Ravens Linebacker, Ray Lewis. He spends his off-season picking up trash along the highway in his orange jumpsuit. You dont have to commit a felony in order to help out where you live. You too can serve your community just like Ray.)
It remains to be seen what public opinion will do with the latest star-crossed athlete to fall into the trappings of our legal system. The lead-up to Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryants rape trial has been hashed out in the media ad nauseam, but the trial's outcome is bound to hold little suspense. Bryants trial will play out just like the scores of other star-athlete's trials have before his. A combination of fame and a highly paid legal team will buy your innocence every time out.
No, Bryants real trial will not be fought in a Colorado courtroom, rather his biggest test lies in the publics court of opinion.
By all early indications, it looks like Bryant is in good shape here as well. Of course, Bryants clean-cut image has been soiled enough to scare away a large quantity of advertisers. And in this regard, Bryants selling power has suffered more than Lewis, mainly because Lewis didnt have any good name to protect before his legal troubles began.
Bryant however, is feeling little pain, other than the few millions missing from his wallet. Last week when Bryant made his season debut away from the Laker faithful, he was hailed not with a chorus of boos but a smattering of applause. A clear signal that the basketball-watching public at large has already pardoned their one-time nemesis.
Bryant himself has already put his legal nuisances behind him, taking the publics forgiveness for granted. Instead of putting on an angelic face and answering to the media with yes mams and no sirs, Bryant has been busy demonstrating what a fine teammate he truly is, by trading low blows with teammate Shaquille O'Neil through the press.
Apparently, Bryant does have reason to be cocky about his current standing with the public. For most basketball junkies, Bryants he said/she said feud is nothing new. Theyve seen it plenty of times before. It is just another one of the on-the-job hazards of being a professional athlete. Its just another case of a woman crying victim and then laughing herself all the way to the bank.
With so many people ready to accuse Bryants accuser, it makes you wonder if all our indicted athletes arent somehow the true victims of these messy legal proceedings?
Somehow Bryants 19-year-old accuser seems different than the plethora of women who have preceded her. Maybe its because she isnt out holding daily press conferences with the media. Or because she has yet to sign that book or movie deal. Or because she didnt decide to tell her story to the local tabloid on the eve of election night or hours before the start of the NBA Finals.
All of this is a moot point with the public, which sits on the verge of letting Bryant walk off a free man. The final verdict is only a matter of time. It also means that poor O.J. really is fated to end up all alone after all As Americas only accused athlete, the public didnt let get away.