“The Hall is lessened if he isn’t in there,” Billick said. “He gave his entire life, basically, to this league. . . . There are certain people with certain agendas to pound away at that. It’s so difficult to get in and when you have a few individuals who take that approach, it’s hard to prevail.”
Current Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said: “I’m not asking Cleveland to understand. I’m not even asking Cleveland to forgive. I just know that Cleveland’s rabid fans should not be the reason that they keep him out.”
David Modell said he believes his father belongs in the Hall of Fame. But his father didn’t focus on the issue, he said.
“He clearly would have enjoyed that honor,” David Modell said. “But he used his sense of humor around us when these situations arose. He was a big boy and he understood all the ramifications. He hardly talked about it at all. I don’t believe Art Modell spent a single day with the Super Bowl trophy that he earned in 2000. He wouldn’t have dwelled on the hoopla. But he would have enjoyed it, and then he would have moved along. My father was from the Greatest Generation. That always shaped his life. You dealt with things and then you moved on.”
David Modell said he’s almost certain that his father didn’t know where in the house his Super Bowl ring was stored. But the Ravens’ Super Bowl win over the New York Giants on Jan. 28, 2001 in Tampa meant plenty to his father, he said.
So, too, did his relationship with Lewis. Art Modell was a staunch supporter of Lewis’s when the linebacker was charged with murder in the stabbing deaths of two men in Atlanta in January 2000. Lewis ultimately pleaded guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of justice charges and murder charges were dropped. Two of his acquaintances were acquitted.
“Art believed in Ray,” David Modell said this week. “He was committed to his belief. He stood up for him, as a father would stand up for a son. Their relationship definitely had a father-son dynamic to it.”
When his father was hospitalized before his death, David Modell said, he called a few Ravens officials, including Bisciotti and General Manager Ozzie Newsome. They arrived at the hospital soon after and said that Coach John Harbaugh and some players might be there as well.
“A little while later, John Harbaugh showed up with Ray, Haloti Ngata, a few other guys,” David Modell said. “Ray knelt at my father’s bedside and prayed with him, as a son would with a father. That was the crux of their relationship. Art stood up for Ray at a dark period. Art was at the forefront of that, and Ray appreciated that and what it meant.”
Lewis said last week at the Ravens’ training facility in Owings Mills, Md: “From the day I walked in this building, I could never ask for a better father in my life to play that role. Just the things that that man did, for not just me but for many thousands of players and organizations and the city of Baltimore, and just to bring football back here to the city of Baltimore, he had a vision and he followed the vision. There is no Baltimore Ravens without Art Modell. So his legacy will always live on.”
Art Modell, who retained a small ownership stake after Bisciotti took over as the team’s primary owner in 2004, would not have been particularly surprised about the Ravens’ latest Super Bowl run, his son said.
“I think,” David Modell said, “he had a great deal of confidence in this group.”