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Mike Preston

Ravens seem willing to take a lead role in struggle against racism | COMMENTARY

The Ravens were the National Football League’s most criticized team when players started kneeling for the national anthem before games in 2017, but now they can become a model organization during a turning point in American history.

Ever since George Floyd, an African American, died several weeks ago in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, there has been a wave of protests across the country to break the cycle of systematic racial injustice.

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The support and contributions have been overwhelming, coming from National Basketball Association team owner Michael Jordan to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell along with numerous corporations and many professional athletes.

Now, there has to be a next step.

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A lot of checks have already been written but this is also a time for more organization and structure in what is a watershed moment.

Several weeks ago, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and his wife, Renee, pledged $1 million from their foundation for social justice reform, but this contribution appeared to be more from the heart than in previous ones.

There was one phrase in particular from a team press release where Bisciotti said he was “sickened, disheartened and shaken by acts of racism that continue in our society.” Those are strong words from a man who doesn’t like to speak publicly.

The Bisciotti’s have been generous before and the recent donation was the latest of many made for social injustice, going back to the Baltimore riots in 2015 over the death of Freddie Gray. The couple has also contributed $3.2 million since the coronavirus outbreak.

The Ravens have a history of being active in the community with various projects, but this isn’t going to be one of those type of events.

From what I’ve heard the Ravens are putting a lot of time and energy into this new program where players and front-office personnel might be more involved in communities as tutors, teachers, advisers and mentors.

That’s a major part in attacking social and educational problems.

I’m hearing that more Ravens players will become involved, which is encouraging because young people need to sustain this movement and move it forward to the next generation.

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The Ravens are forming a committee of current and former players that will determine which programs will get the appropriate funding.

It’s like the Ravens are taking a deeper step than what you currently see from other NFL teams in their respective home cities. If they can pull it off, other teams and leagues will follow.

When you watch the protests on television they aren’t just taking place in America but all over the world. Unlike the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s when most of the protestors were mostly black, these crowds are diversified, which lets you know there is something special going on here.

The video of Floyd dying was graphic and happened during the coronavirus pandemic when a lot of people were home and not distracted by other interests such as watching sporting events. Americans can no longer treat his death or those of other African Americans in similar situations as an isolated incident.

It’s somewhat ironic that the Ravens lost fans and were severely criticized two years ago when they decided to kneel for the national anthem in London while playing against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Back then, as they do now, players claimed they weren’t protesting against the flag or the military but were protesting against racial injustice in America.

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The message has finally gotten across now even though these types of racial injustices have been happening for hundreds of years. But now, it is all on video.

America was watching.

They’ll be watching the Ravens, too. They could become leaders in a special time for this country.


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