When Broncos rookie linebacker Shane Ray recently revealed a massive new back tattoo featuring the skyline of his hometown, Kansas City, the backlash in Denver was predictable. The trouble was floating up there among the clouds, with that pair of bedroom angels, just above the logo for MLS’ Sporting KC and the Royals crest: Was that really a Chiefs’ arrowhead?
Unapologetic, Ray took to Instagram, writing: “For everyone that is salty because I take pride in the city that made me who I am today, you weren’t with me then and [it] won’t bother me if [you’re] not there now.”
Roots forged through struggle are stronger, so this might be a good time to point out that Ray grew up in a K.C. neighborhood known as “the Murder Factory“; that a rare meeting with his father, Wendell, a one-time Vikings’ pick, came through county jail Plexiglas; and that last year he himself was victim of the reflexive media pile-on after what they call in this business an “off-the-field incident.”
Just days before the 2015 draft, the former Missouri star was pulled over for speeding and found in possession of a small amount of marijuana. Originally projected as a top ten pick, he dropped all the way to 23rd – where the Broncos snapped him up on their way to winning Super Bowl 50. In short, it’s been quite a rookie-year ride for the 22-year-old, and Rolling Stone recently spoke to him about the learning curve of an NFL rookie, battling in the shadows of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, how he spent his (very brief) offseason and, of course, that tattoo.
So, you got a tattoo. Some Broncos fans weren’t too happy about it.
I knew initially some fans would get upset. But it’s where I’m from, it has nothing to do with the decisions I’m making on the field or how I will play against the Chiefs. But it wasn’t just their logo I had – I had our soccer team, baseball team and Gates Bar-B-Q. It’s about what makes Kansas City and its landmarks. A lot of people understood, but there are always going to be people who have something negative to say. My city made me, and I’m one of the few people who came from where I did to be successful. I take pride in that.
It’s huge. How long did it take?
It took three days to do the entire tattoo. My homegirl Kat Tat from 9 Mag Tattoo did it. She’s on Black Ink Crew: Chicago. I’d been planning this piece for years, but never had the time to do it, so figured this offseason would be the perfect time.