Baltimore’s recent scuffles with the NFL over where and when to celebrate the Ravens 2013 Super Bowl victory are reminiscent of some of the Donnybrook’s between Mayor William Don Schaefer and the NFL owners in years past. No doubt, there would be no 2013 Baltimore Ravens if it were not for Mayor Schaefer’s tireless optimism, fierce devotion to Baltimore and unconquerable spirit in the face of strong opposition to the placement of a franchise in Charm City.
Many Baltimore citizens recall fondly the booming voice and unbridled enthusiasm of Don Schaeffer for his beloved Baltimore. You could hardly turn over a shovel of dirt in a neighborhood cleanup effort without boisterous Mayor Schaefer coming by to make a speech about the beauty of Baltimore and the greatness of her citizens. For 50 years he devoted his efforts to the public service of his native city and state.
No effort epitomized Mayor Schaefer’s love of Baltimore more than the saga of the loss of the Colts and his marathon effort to acquire the Ravens for Baltimore. The NFL repeatedly thwarted Mayor Schaefer’s and Baltimore’s efforts to return professional football to the city.
The battle became heated at times, particularly between Mayor Schaefer and Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and eventually the NFL rejected Baltimore completely by choosing Jacksonville and Charlotte as expansion franchises. The gloves really came off then, with Mayor Schaefer leaving no stone unturned in his efforts to acquire a team for Baltimore. The Ravens, now celebrating a second Super Bowl, are evidence that Mayor Schaefer prevailed in his quest for an NFL franchise.
Most fans today are just happy that Baltimore has a football team, but many citizens recognize that the NFL represents more than football. An NFL franchise helps bring civic pride and community spirit to a municipality and convey the sense that the city is a “major league” community worth fighting for, worth caring about. No one possessed more community spirit than Mayor Schaefer.
The NFL owners and commissioners are very smart, mostly good men, but they compete for limited markets and community spirit and civic pride are not, perhaps, very high on their list of priorities. For Don Schaefer it was all about his community, his city, his beloved Baltimore and Maryland.
Mayor Schaefer was a throwback civic leader who cared more about his community than personal wealth and political power. Ravens fans can celebrate their team today primarily because of William Don Schaefer.
His love and devotion to his city and state is unparalleled.
Submitted by Rob Ward