Legendary Miami Hurricanes linebacker and NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis is returning to the Magic City sports scene to help raise awareness of a 400-year-old sport gaining newfound interest thanks to a professional league that’s turning heads.
On March 1, the World Jai-Alai League (WJAL) announced Lewis has joined its board of directors. Lewis, a 13-time Pro Bowl player with a Super Bowl MVP award under his belt, is set to bring his competitive nature to a sport that has more than a century-long history in Miami and is looking to take another step toward mass adoption in 2023.
“I’m excited to join WJAL on the ground floor and help spread the word about this fast-growing sport,” said Lewis via a WJAL press release. “These are incredible athletes playing a uniquely challenging game, and Scott Savin [chief operating officer at Magic City Casino & Jai-Alai] and his team are building something special. I look forward to getting to Miami soon to check out these athletes in person.”
As expected, landing a sports figure of Lewis’s stature is a big get for the WJAL, and something they’re over-the-moon excited about.
“We couldn’t be happier to welcome Ray to our board of directors. This is a big day for the growth of our league,” said Savin. “Ray’s stature, experience, and insights will increase overall awareness of jai alai, which is already growing exponentially. Ray will be a motivating force, not just for our athletes, but for all of us.”
Lewis joins a board of directors whose mission will be to increase awareness of jai alai and attract more fans to a game that once had a large, devoted fanbase in the U.S.
Miami has been the longtime epicenter of the American incarnation of the sport, which peaked in the U.S. in the 1970s. Interest in the sport waned over the following decade, and a three-year-long players’ strike beginning in 1988 all but extinguished its popularity.
The addition of Lewis to the WJAL board is the latest push to market the league that’s gained some ground in South Florida following the support of local celebrities, including Mike Ryan and Chris Cote of the Dan LeBatard Show.
The five-team league — the only one of its kind in the US — features the top players in the world, including the several former University of Miami athletes, as well as talent from Spain, France, Mexico, and the Philippines.
South Floridians interested in checking out the 150mph action in person are in luck — the WJAL plays three days a week at the Magic City Fronton in Miami, and its Spring Season gamedays are open to the public on Fridays (7 p.m.) through May 12.
In addition to local eyeballs, the WJAL has a national audience for its video streams that air live on ESPN3.
WJAL matches are also viewable on Jai-Alai TV (www.jaialai.live), via the Jai-Alai app, and at www.watchjaialai.com.