In a letter sent to team supporters Friday afternoon, Baltimore Ravens team president Dick Cass said the team has suffered from a surprising number of no-shows at M&T Bank Stadium this season, while citing player protests as a primary factor. Numerous Ravens players knelt during the national anthem before the team faced the Jaguars in London on Sept. 24, after President Trump called activist athletes “sons of bitches.”
Via Cass’ letter (which you can read in full right here):
We had the poor showing in London, complicated by the kneeling of a dozen players during the National Anthem. That became an emotional and divisive issue. We know that hurt some of you. Others saw it differently and welcomed the dialogue that followed. Others bluntly told us to keep statements and protests out of the game. There are some of you who have stayed away from our games.
We have had significant numbers of no-shows in the past when our play on the field has not met the high standard we and you have set for the Ravens. But this year has been different. The numbers are higher, and it is noticeable. There are a number of reasons for the no-shows, but surely the one-time protest in London has been a factor.
Cass writes that he and other Ravens executives have reached out to fans upset about the protests in an attempt to assuage their concerns, while assuring supporters that, “We don’t take your support for granted, and we know that we must continue to earn your respect and investment in us.”
Though it’s likely that some fans have been turned off by Ravens players protesting for racial justice, the no-shows probably go beyond that. Baltimore is 8-6 on the season and is in the hunt for an AFC playoff berth. However, the team lacks the star power of its previous era following the retirements of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and has also been somewhat inconsistent on the field.
The Ravens’ attendance also probably hasn’t been helped by a fairly weak home slate. Baltimore has hosted six home games this season. Their opponents in those games were:
- The 0-1 Browns
- The 2-1 Steelers
- The 1-4 Bears
- The 4-2 Dolphins
- The 4-6 Texans
- The 6-5 Lions
That’s six teams, only one of whom appears destined for the playoffs, with a combined 17-19 at the time of those matchups.
Attendance is always a tricky code to crack, with numerous factors (weather, opponent, fan morale, quality of play). Fans angry about players demonstrating against police brutality could be the main cause of the Ravens’ apparent attendance woes, but it’s probably not that simple.