Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti voiced his support for the Black Lives Matter movement Friday, saying in a team-produced video that he would be “the worst kind of hypocrite” if he didn’t speak out against racial injustice.
The comments, shared in a nearly 10-minute video featuring black, white and mixed-race Ravens players, as well as team officials and coach John Harbaugh, represent the team’s clearest embrace yet of the movement that has sparked worldwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism.
“Ask the questions, ask the uncomfortable questions, and you will come to the conclusion, I hope, that I have," Bisciotti says at the end of the video. "That you don’t feel it enough and you don’t live it enough if you’re not willing to say it: Black Lives Matter.”
Bisciotti’s closing statement echoed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who, at the urging of superstar players a week ago, said the league condemns racism and the oppression of black people and admitted wrongdoing in not listening to players’ concerns or encouraging peaceful protests. “We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter,” Goodell said last Friday.
Support in the United States for the movement has more than doubled since 2016, according to a poll released Thursday. A Yahoo News-YouGov survey found that 57% of American adults said they have a favorable opinion of Black Lives Matter, compared with 27% who said the same in a similar poll four years ago. A third of U.S. adults in the 2020 survey said they have an unfavorable opinion of the movement.
On social media and in interviews, Ravens players have shared their frustration and anger in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck as he was being arrested in Minneapolis last month. The franchise has also remained proactive, with the Ravens and Bisciotti’s foundation committing to donate $1 million to support social justice reform in Baltimore.
In Friday’s video, Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams and defensive back-linebacker Anthony Levine Sr. describe their unease with the police, a topic typically omitted from team-produced statements and videos.
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“To say, ‘Stick to sports,’ is the worst possible thing that you can feel and say," Bisciotti says in the video. “If my players, both white and black, don’t speak out about this injustice to their communities, then they’re considered sellouts or hypocrites. If I don’t defend my players, then I’m the worst kind of hypocrite.”
Nearly 20 people appear in the video, which the team says draws from conversations that began in team meetings last week. Executive vice president Ozzie Newsome recalls growing up in Alabama, where he was allowed to drink only from water fountains designated for “colored” people. Black players talk about wanting their children to grow up in a safer, more tolerant society. White players express a willingness and eagerness to help effect change.
“It should not matter about the color of your skin," quarterback Lamar Jackson says. "You should treat someone kindly.”
Harbaugh, who supported the team’s protests in London during the national anthem three years ago, is one of the last voices in the video. After saying he’s “angry" and “embarrassed” that the country hasn’t lived up its ideals, he adds: “We’re the generation that can redeem the ideals of our country, make America what it was meant to be. I believe we will do it. The time to do it is now.”