‘We gotta stay home, and we gotta stay strong’: Maryland athletes, coaches help Hogan urge fans to follow coronavirus warnings

For fans missing their favorite teams while in quarantine at home, some of Maryland’s most iconic sports figures have provided encouraging messages.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, legendary Maryland men’s basketball coach Gary Williams, Ravens Hall of Famer Ray Lewis and Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky have recorded videos urging Marylanders to stay home to help combat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and thanking those on the front lines of the crisis in the medical field.


“We are in it together," Harbaugh said in his video. “Let’s win it together.”

The videos are part of a coordinated messaging strategy — along with Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent daily local and national media appearances — to get all Marylanders to grasp the seriousness of the situation and remind them “we’re all in this together,” said deputy communications director Kata Hall, who has been soliciting the videos and posting them to the governor’s Twitter account.


“He’s trying to get that message across to as many people as possible,” Hall said in a phone interview. “We’re using the voices Marylanders trust to get that message across."

Hogan’s recent media blitz has included appearances on WPOC, a country radio station, and The Junkies, a sports radio program on WJFK, in addition to more traditional local and national news outlets, noted Michael Ricci, Hogan’s top spokesman.

“The goal here is to reach as broad an audience as possible and reach people where they are,” Ricci said.

People seek out trusted sources of information in any trying and uncertain time, and sports stars and other celebrities are “people Marylanders identify with, who they’ve known over the years,” he said.

“It helps to have it amplified by people who aren’t politicians,” Ricci said.

Harbaugh, whom the governor’s staff contacted through a team official, was the first person they asked, and he sent back a video within 24 hours, Hall said.

Harbaugh coached the Ravens to victory in Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013 and led them to a franchise-best 14-2 regular season in 2019. He said in his video that the state has “an outstanding game plan” to fight the virus.

“Number one, stay home; that’s how we slow this opponent down,” Harbaugh said. “Number two, stay calm. We can’t win with panic. Number three, stay engaged. There are so many plays that we can make: Give blood, donate to our food bank, be a hero in our neighborhood. Number four, let’s take care of our families. Let’s engage with one another. Let’s spend time together. Maybe get some things done around the house that we’ve been putting off for a while.

“We are a team," he said. “We want to win this thing.”

Hogan’s staff hadn’t planned to produce a whole video series, but when they saw the response to Harbaugh’s clip on social media, they wanted to keep it going, Hall said.

On a whim, Hall reached out to Gary Williams, the retired University of Maryland coach, through a mutual acquaintance: her dentist.

Williams, who led the Terps to the 2001-02 national title 18 years ago this week and retired in 2011 after 22 seasons, recorded a message and sent it back the same night, Hall said.

“I’ve joined a new team: the state of Maryland’s team against the coronavirus,” Williams said in his video. “Anyone can join our team. To be a good team, you have to be fundamentally sound. Among our fundamentals are staying at home, washing our hands as often as possible, making sure if we do go out we stay 6 feet away from anyone we might run into, making sure we listen to any [directions] from Gov. Hogan’s office, and if you get the chance, make sure you help someone that might be unemployed or lacking food.

“We live in a great state and a great country. Please be a member of our team as we fight against the coronavirus, and we will have a decisive victory. Thank you, and please stay safe.”

Although the 2020 Olympic Games have been postponed a year, Ledecky, a Bethesda native and Olympic gold medalist, is still finding ways to make an impact.

Ricci got her to record a video from California, where she is living, encouraging her home state to support the medical professionals fighting the virus.

“I know I’ve always really appreciated it when you’ve cheered me on in my swimming career, and so today, together, I want us to all really cheer on the doctors, nurses, health care workers and all the medical professionals on the front lines fighting this virus,” Ledecky said.

“To properly cheer them on, we all need to do our part," the swimmer said. "We need to stay home, really hunker down. We need to stay safe, wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, don’t touch your face. We need to stay aware. Let’s listen to Gov. Hogan and all of the medical professionals telling us what to do and not do. And we need to stay calm. Let’s support one another during these times, but from afar.”

Lewis, who spent his entire Pro Football Hall of Fame career in Baltimore, was the latest to back Hogan’s stay-at-home message.

“I want to say thank you to all the first responders and the health care workers for all of your selfless work that you are doing on the front line,” Lewis said. “You are truly the backbone to this society.

“We really need to do our part, any way that we can help, and I think the way that we can help is we gotta stay home, and we gotta stay strong.”

Hogan, a Republican, appeared in a fifth video himself Friday, acknowledging the challenges facing Marylanders — a record 84,000 of whom filed for unemployment last week.

“I know how difficult this is on each and every one of you," the governor said in the video. "There’s a great deal of fear and anxiety, and the truth is that none of us really know how bad this is going to get or how long it’s going to last. But I can promise you there are a great many dedicated people doing tremendous things, working around the clock, and doing their very best to help keep Marylanders safe.

“In the days to come, we’re going to need to depend on each other, to look out for one another and to take care of each other, because we are all in this together, and we will get through this together.”

Hogan’s aides were tight-lipped about who might appear next on the governor’s Twitter account, although they acknowledged that they have reached out to the Orioles and at least one well-known Maryland band. They say they’re open to more suggestions, if you have them.

“It’s been amazing," Hall said. “Everybody’s stepped up and said yes.”

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