The Blue Lives Matter flags on the backs of the jerseys worn by Aberdeen IronBirds players are not a political stance but a way to honor the memories of two Harford County sheriff’s deputies killed in the line of duty in 2016, the team’s general manager said Wednesday.
A photo of the patch – which features a gray American flag with a blue line in the middle – on the back of outfielder Zach Watson’s jersey was directed to The Baltimore Sun via Twitter on Tuesday night.
@cmcampbell6 Hey, the Ironbirds jersey has a Blue Lives Matter flag on the uniform instead of the American flag. Seems like someone should write something about it. pic.twitter.com/s9HUzeAcoV
Matt Slatus, the IronBirds’ general manager, said the patch was sewed onto the jerseys worn for home games shortly after Senior Deputy Patrick Dailey and Deputy First Class Mark Logsdon were shot by David Brian Evans inside and then outside a restaurant in Abingdon on Feb. 10, 2016.
“To recognize the two of them, we began wearing that patch and to recognize all of law enforcement, not just in Harford County but in the state of Maryland and around the country,” Slatus said, noting that the patches were applied to the jerseys before the Short-A affiliate of the Orioles began its 2016 season in June. “We were fortunate to be able to retire the badge numbers of the two Harford County deputies, but I think as a nod to them and a note to their families and to those who protect us around the country, we continue to wear that patch, and we’re proud of it.”
Slatus emphasized the flags are not intended to make a political statement.
“We are not a political organization by any means,” he said. “We’re here to provide affordable family fun and entertainment to the Upper Chesapeake region. We’re here to develop baseball players and make sure that, most importantly, people come out to the ballpark and have a great time.
"This is not a political discussion, it’s not a political point. We continue to honor and recognize the memory of the two deputies who tragically – while trying to protect the region – lost their lives in Harford County.”
John Maroon – a spokesman for Ripken Baseball, which owns the IronBirds – said fans have backed the team’s action.
“We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback for this action,” he said. “This incident left deep scars on our community and we are proud and honored in the way which we have recognized he officers and law enforcement. We have every intention of continuing to recognize the officers and honor their service moving forward.”
The Blue Lives Matter movement was born after the homicides of New York Police Department officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu on Dec. 20, 2014. The movement’s New York website states the organization was created “to help Law Enforcement Officers and their families during their time of need.”
But some critics have argued the movement distorts the Black Lives Matter movement’s objective of raising awareness to the plight of African Americans. Others have contended the identities and histories of African-American communities are under a seemingly constant threat while police officers do not face similar obstacles.
Zilpha Smith, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Harford County branch, was unaware of the patch until she was informed Wednesday.