Navy veteran Dan Gilmore says the NFL’s stance against kneeling doesn’t mix with his version of patriotism.
“I wouldn’t personally kneel, but I support their right to do it,” the 44-year-old Gilmore said. “[Veterans], we’re not protecting an item or a song, but the values and the rights to freedom of speech.”
A contract web developer for the federal government, Gilmore isn’t turning his TV off on Sundays, nor is he keeping away from M&T Bank Stadium. He has tickets for the opener against Buffalo, but he maintains he will be just as vocal about the issue while he’s there.
“People that are screaming about disrespecting the flag are the same people who shout ‘O!’ at Orioles games and ‘Red!’ at Caps games,” he said. “I don’t like hypocrisy.”
After the NFL’s ruling Wednesday giving players who plan to kneel during the national anthem the chance to remain in the locker room, Ravens fans took to social media to voice their opinions — pro and con — with the league’s decision.
Northeast Baltimore native Jordan Horne, 24, who played fullback at Bryant University, said the players have the right to do whatever they want.
“The NFL is getting too involved in moral matters,” said Horne, who is working toward his Master’s in Architecture at Morgan State. “It’s clearly a non-football thing, but they don’t seem to care about anything else going in [the player’s] life.”
Regardless of what the NFL mandates, Horne said he would stand by his childhood team.
“I’ve been a fan since I was born,” he said. “My loyalty hasn’t changed.”
But some are not so certain. Dion Cartwright, 39, an activist and director of Equitable Initiatives and Leadership Development for the Funders Network, will find it a struggle to watch football this season because of the ruling.
“It contradicts the NFL’s ‘show of unity,’ but more importantly, it feels like oppression,” said Cartwright, who is based in Baltimore. “It feels like a slap in the face.”
To maintain her support for the Ravens, she said she wishes that players would diverge from the NFL’s position.
“I hope they’ll actually use their power and make a decision to come onto the field to take a knee and be willing to take a fine,” she said. “My hope is that all players of color, Ravens, Cowboys, whoever, make a decision not based on the dollar.”
Ravens fan Jim Daly, 70, of Catonsville, said the players “have the right to protest, but not during the national anthem.”
“I think kneeling during the national anthem is totally inappropriate. The players should be standing,” he said.
Team president Dick Cass said in a letter to season-ticket holders late in the regular season that the anthem protest in London was a factor for empty seats at M&T Bank Stadium. The team has tried several initiatives this offseason to appease fans, including dropping some concession prices and touting renovations at the stadium.
Dina R. Billian, the deputy director of Career Development at the University of Maryland, became a Ravens fan when the team first moved to Memorial Stadium in 1996 and bought season tickets shortly thereafter. The ruling, in congruence with the Cass letter, is motivating her to sell.
“What I do not understand is why NFL owners see this as an issue of disrespecting the flag and anthem, instead of backing the players up by saying, ‘Yes, police brutality is bad. Black people are being murdered. There is an injustice here,’ ” Billian said. “This is not about disrespecting the flag or the anthem. The owners are perpetuating a false and dangerous narrative.”