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Why Ravens coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale knelt during the national anthem before season opener

When Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked Friday about the team’s plans for observing the national anthem in its season opener, he said the decision was not up to him. Whatever Ravens players wanted to do Sunday, he would support them, Harbaugh said, so long as they respected one another.

“We encourage our players to be who they are,” Harbaugh said. “We want them to be who they are, the best selves of who they are.”

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Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale was among those who decided not to stand during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at M&T Bank Stadium. He knelt next to defensive end Calais Campbell, as did quarterback Lamar Jackson.

On Thursday, asked about the decision, Martindale cited a saying from former Ravens defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, who died in 2016: “This game always has been, and it always will be, about the players."

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Martindale said the pained messages shared during the team’s meetings this year after the death of George Floyd and police shooting of Jacob Blake, which led the Ravens to push for comprehensive social justice reform, had resonated with him.

“I just heard the hurt in their heart and their voice about what’s going on right now,” said Martindale, who is white. “I’m going to support the players until we all really attack all kinds of issues in our country and just stop the hate. ... I heard [Harbaugh] said the players just want to make this country great, and I believe him. And that’s what I hear from them. So I think that we all have to take a look at this, and until all of us take a look at it, it’s not going to get fixed. I wanted to support the players.”

Shortly after the Ravens kicked off Sunday against the Cleveland Brown, the team released a statement from owner Steve Bisciotti.

“We respect and support our players' right to protest peacefully,” Bisciotti said. "This was a demonstration for justice and equality for all Americans. These are core values we can all support.

“This was not a protest against our country, the military or the flag. Our players remain dedicated to uplifting their communities and making America better. They have proven this through substantive action. They are committed to using their platform to drive positive change, and we support their efforts.”

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