Here we are, the end of the year, and you thought you were going to just slide right into the holiday break without another reminder of the collision between politics and sports. Not so fast! The Baltimore Ravens are bringing up those dang protests once again, this time as a justification for no-shows at the stadium.
In a letter to season ticketholders, suite holders, and sponsors, Ravens president Dick Cass noted that there had been an upsurge in no-shows this season, and indicated that he believed protests were one of the reasons why.
“The numbers [of no-shows] are higher, and it is noticeable,” Cass wrote in the letter, as quoted by ESPN. “There are a number of reasons for the no-shows, but surely the one-time protest in London has been a factor.”
The Ravens have never technically protested during the anthem in Baltimore. The team knelt before their game in London against the Jaguars immediately after President Trump criticized the league. That move, kneeling during the anthem on foreign soil, further outraged some viewers, and the Jaguars issued a direct apology to local military personnel. Ravens officials had to hire extra security to protect the statue of Ray Lewis outside M&T Bank Stadium; Lewis had knelt on the sideline arm-in-arm with other Ravens players.
The Ravens also knelt in prayer prior to a home game against Pittsburgh, but stood for the anthem. Even so, the players were booed for taking a knee, even though they didn’t do so during the anthem. The Ravens haven’t protested since, although protests continue to occur on some teams.
In the wake of the protests, teams across the league followed demonstration with action by kicking off initiatives designed to create connections between fans, players, and local police. “We want the Ravens to continue to be a strong, unifying force and source of pride in our community,” Cass wrote in the letter. “When the Ravens win, we can bring families and the community together. We’ve done that before, and we can do it again.”
He made an indirect reference to the protests, given the fact that the Ravens are in the hunt for a playoff spot and yet no-shows are apparently still up. “In light of recent events, we are also reminded that winning alone is not always enough to make the Ravens the unifying force we want to be. We don’t take your support for granted, and we know that we must continue to earn your respect and investment in us.”
Chances are you already have your feelings on the protests set in bedrock, whether you believe they’re disrespectful to the sacrifices of veterans or the embodiment of freedoms on which the country was founded, so we won’t rehash any of that here. But the Ravens are the first team to acknowledge the protests as a factor in declining interest in the NFL, and it’s likely they won’t be the last.