The Baltimore Ravens have surprised many this season as they have overcome a plethora of injuries to position themselves in the hunt for the playoffs.
At 8-6, the Ravens control their own destiny: If they win their last two games against the Indianapolis Colts (3-11) and Cincinnati Bengals (5-9), both at home, they’ll make the playoffs for the first time since the 2014 season.
Despite the team’s successes on the field this season, the Ravens have seen a drop in attendance at M&T Bank Stadium as many season-ticket holders, suite holders and sponsors have stopped showing up to games.
Ravens team president Dick Cass said the team has seen attendance numbers drop off before, but never in the middle of a playoff race.
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He acknowledged many of the empty seats are a result of the players’ national anthem protests.
“The numbers [of no-shows] are higher, and it is noticeable,” Cass wrote in a 656-word letter to the Ravens’ season-ticket holders, suite holders and sponsors. “There are a number of reasons for the no-shows, but surely the one-time protest in London has been a factor.”
About a dozen Ravens knelt during the national anthem before the team’s Sept. 24 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.
The protest came in response to President Donald Trump’s comments about anthem protesters in a speech. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now. Out. He’s fired!’?”
One week after the London game, the team knelt in prayer before standing for the anthem. The fans at M&T Bank Stadium showered the players with boos when they took a knee.
The team has not protested since.
“We have responded to your concerns about the protest by re-doubling the efforts of both the organization and our players to make the Baltimore area a better community,” Cass wrote in his letter to the fans.
He also went as far as to personally call fans who wrote the team letters about their opinions on the national anthem protests.
“Some of my Ravens colleagues have also made a number of calls,” Cass wrote. “While we have not been able to reach all of you, we have learned a lot from these interactions.”
I have not watched one snap of football Bc of anthem protests so I would say he is right
— Steven (@Thechief1984) December 22, 2017
It’s good to see owners actually admit why. While media and others won’t admit why is kinda sad.
— Scotty’s Terrible Takes (@Scottyterrible) December 22, 2017
“We want the Ravens to continue to be a strong, unifying force and source of pride in our community,” he wrote. “When the Ravens win, we can bring families and the community together. We’ve done that before, and we can do it again.
“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.”
The letter also outlined the history of success that Ravens fans have long enjoyed as the organization has won two Super Bowl championships in its 21 years in Baltimore.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and his team would love to have a packed house for their final two games of the season.
“I think they’re starting to get excited about this football team,” Harbaugh said after last Sunday’s 27-10 win over the Cleveland Browns. “So it should be fun in our stadium against the Colts next Saturday night.”