Ravens president blames national anthem protest for limited home turnout

Back on Sept. 24, the Baltimore Ravens lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars by 37 points in London. Before the game, numerous Ravens players responded to Donald Trump's inflammatory remarks -- when he called for players to be fired for refusing to stand for the national anthem -- by kneeling during the national anthem. Now, that protest is being used by the Ravens as a reason to explain low turnout at home games.

This week, the Ravens sent a letter to season-ticket holders. In that letter, which was obtained by CBS Baltimore, team president Dick Cass said that the no-shows at M&T Bank Stadium are at least partially due to that protest in London.

We had the poor showing in London, complicated by the kneeling of a dozen players during the National Anthem. That became an emotional and divisive issue. We know that hurt some of you. Others saw it differently and welcomed the dialogue that followed. Others bluntly told us to keep statements and protests out of the game. There are some of you who have stayed away from our games.

We have had significant numbers of no-shows in the past when our play on the field has not met the high standard we and you have set for the Ravens. But this year has been different. The numbers are higher, and it is noticeable. There are a number of reasons for the no-shows, but surely the one-time protest in London has been a factor.

In the letter, he also said that the Ravens have responded to those who voiced their concerns about the protest:

We have responded to your concerns about the protest by re-doubling the efforts of both the organization and our players to make the Baltimore area a better community. We have also reached out to a number of you who wrote or called about the protest. I personally made a number of phone calls and met with some of you. Some of my Ravens colleagues have also made a number of calls. While we have not been able to reach all of you, we have learned a lot from these interactions.

It's worth noting that the Ravens ended their protests after the London game. Before their next home game, however, they did kneel in prayer before the national anthem. The fans booed them when that happened, even though the players ended up standing for the national anthem.

One could, of course, argue that another reason for poor attendance could be the Ravens' unquestionably boring brand of football. At 8-6, the Ravens are very much alive in the playoff race, but it still has to be difficult to generate much excitement when your starting quarterback is Joe Flacco (5.8 YPA and a 79.1 QB rating), your best receiver is Mike Wallace, and your offense as a whole is ranked 20th in DVOA. The Ravens' best offensive player might be kicker Justin Tucker. The Ravens' defense remains a strong unit -- strong enough that Ravens still have a shot to make the playoffs -- but their lack of explosive skill position players on offense has led to them playing a very boring style of football.

But again, the Ravens are 8-6 and can still make the playoffs as a wild-card team (they're currently slotted behind the Titans and Bills due to tiebreakers). They should get credit for finding a way to win despite their anemic offense.

Maybe, as coach John Harbaugh said this week, the reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.

"I do appreciate the character of our team and the resilience of our team and the mental toughness and the focus and the ability to get right at the task at hand and push aside the stuff that is not important and get right at what is important and deal with adversity when it happens, with the different injuries," Harbaugh said, per ESPN. "You are right; it is all around the league. Every team deals with it to one degree or another. We dealt with it quite a bit early and then middle of season. Our guys handled it, and they kept fighting through it. The reports of our demise, I guess, were greatly exaggerated."

The Ravens will close out the year against the Colts and Bengals. Football Outsiders gives them a 93.6 percent chance of making the playoffs.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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