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Ravens acknowledge that London protest has resulted in no-shows at home games

In a letter sent to season-ticket holders this week, Ravens president Dick Cass acknowledged that “the onetime protest” by players before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London has led to an increased number of empty seats and no-shows at the team’s home games.

During the playing of the national anthem before that game, a 44-7 loss on Sept. 24, at least a dozen Ravens knelt in protest. The next week at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens prayed as a team before the national anthem.

“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,” Cass wrote. “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 onetime protest in London has been a factor.”

This year, the Ravens are 8-6 and battling for a wild-card spot, but they’ve still had empty seats at home games. The Ravens play the 3-11 Indianapolis Colts on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

Cass said the team has noticed no-shows and has tried to alleviate concerns of its fans.

“We have responded to your concerns about the protest by redoubling the efforts of both the organization and our players to make the Baltimore area a better community,” he wrote. “We don’t take your support for granted, and we know that we must continue to earn your respect and investment in us.”

M&T Bank Stadium seats about 71,000 fans and the team announces a sellout every game, but there have been swaths of empty seats this season, especially in the upper levels.

Here is the full text of letter from Cass:

From Dick Cass, Team President

Dear XX

I am writing to thank you for your continued support of the Baltimore Ravens. You are an important part of who we are and what we have become.

Created over 22 seasons, our bonds with you are strong and deep. Our Ravens family is built on memories of great games, plays and people. That foundation includes you and Ravens players named Jonathan, Ray, Ed, Sizzle, Joe, Todd, Bart, Goose, Mac, Edwin and many others. Our cement is a pair of Super Bowls, the “Mile High Miracle,” the single-season best defense ever, and playoff wins in New England, Oakland and Pittsburgh, as well as memorable regular season victories at M&T Bank Stadium over Jacksonville, the Steelers and Seattle and the snow game against Minnesota.

All along, our organization and our players have volunteered to make our community better. That work continues almost daily and, certainly, weekly. We are especially proud of our current players’ commitment to make Baltimore a better place to live and work.

We are once again in a serious battle to make the playoffs. If we achieve that goal, it will be the seventh time in the last 10 years. But we know it has been an unusual season. A glut of injuries, especially on offense, had us struggling early to find both consistency and our identity.

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.

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. We have also reached out to a number of you who wrote or called about the protest. I personally made a number of phone calls and met with some of you. Some of my Ravens colleagues have also made a number of calls. While we have not been able to reach all of you, we have learned a lot from these interactions.

We want the Ravens to continue to be a strong, unifying force and source of pride in our community. 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. We are committed to putting the best possible team on the field and providing an outstanding gameday experience for you. That commitment requires us to continue to make significant investments in our facilities. This summer we will finish our $45 million renovation and expansion of our Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills. By the beginning of the 2019 season, we will complete our ongoing $120 million renovation of M&T Bank Stadium. (By the way, our first set of escalators to the upper bowl will be completed in 2018.)

We hope you and your loved ones are having a wonderful holiday season. Let’s add to the celebration with a Ravens run to the postseason. Thank you for reading this.

Sincerely,

Dick Cass

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