Over an offseason of societal unrest and political tumult, the Ravens emerged as one of the NFL’s most progressive organizations. In June, team owner Steve Bisciotti voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Last month, the team released a comprehensive statement pushing for specific reforms in social justice and racial equality.
On Sunday, Ravens players and coaches will have perhaps their biggest platform yet for a statement: their season opener against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium.
Coach John Harbaugh said Friday that Bisciotti spoke to the Ravens' leadership committee Thursday about his plans for social justice. Harbaugh declined to divulge specifics but called it “action on a large scale” that had players “fired up.” As for his team, Harbaugh said his position on pregame gestures hasn’t changed.
“We respect one another,” Harbaugh said in a video conference call. “We treat one another with respect. We respect one another’s opinions. We support one another. That’s what a team does, and we encourage our players to be who they are. ... Our guys are encouraged to do what’s on their conscience and in their heart, not to please anybody outside, not to be concerned with what anybody else’s opinion is, but to do what expresses how you feel.”
Harbaugh acknowledged that the team would not take collective action, explaining, “It’s going to be different for me than it is for other guys out there.” But he said he would support his players' decisions to stand, kneel, clasp hands “or whatever guys choose to do” during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Safety Chuck Clark said it was important that each player be allowed to do what he felt was appropriate. With the backing of Harbaugh and Bisciotti, Clark said Ravens players “know that they’re on the same page with us and they understand the things that are going on in this country and that a lot of people are tired of. ... They understand where we’re coming from.”