The Baltimore Ravens have a public relations problem, and it’s largely of their own making.
Ever since news of Joe Flacco‘s back injury came to light, there have been rumors that the team may be interested in signing former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, the starting quarterback for the Ravens’ opponent during their last Super Bowl win, has gained notoriety most recently not for his play on the field, but for his actions before games. He, of course, chose to kneel during the Star-Spangled Banner during the 2016 season to protest police-involved shootings in the United States.
I won’t bore you with my personal opinion on Kaepernick’s protest. What I will do, is say that, based on fan reaction to the rumored signing on our Facebook page, and on the local airwaves, it is obvious that many Ravens fans are vehemently against the team bringing in Kaepernick. Based on the current results of our poll below (which has over 3700 votes at the time of this writing), 37% of Ravens fans say they would boycott the team if they signed Kaepernick.
Heck, we had videos posted to our Facebook page of folks burning their Ravens hats because John Harbaugh admitted to even ENTERTAINING the idea of signing him.
It’s safe to say that this is an emotionally charged issue for many fans.
However, the Ravens, somehow, keep making things worse on themselves.
At today’s fan forum at M&T Bank Stadium featuring Steve Bisciotti, Dick Cass, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, fans asked about the situation.
Bisciotti asked by fan about bringing in Kap and potentially "damaging your brand." Bisciotti says he's spoken to current and former players
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) July 30, 2017
Let’s stop for just a second here.
Outside of Baltimore, the Ravens “brand” is that of a team full of murderers, wife-beaters, and thugs. We won’t get into whether or not that’s a fair label, but we should at least be able to admit that it is indeed the case. This is the franchise that employed Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, Terrell Suggs, Donte Stallworth, and plenty of other public pariahs.
Lately, the team has done all they can to field a squad full of “choir boys,” in an effort to shed this reputation. In the eyes of many fans, that attitude has drastically hurt their ability to compete.
But again, that’s a topic for another day.
Kaepernick’s “crime” is not of the same ilk of those of some of the aforementioned former or current Ravens. Regardless, perception is absolutely reality in this case, and in this case, the public perception of Kaepernick is overwhelmingly negative (at least among fans), and that’s something that the Ravens are obviously very aware of.
As a result of this sensitivity, Bisciotti admitted that the team has spoken to former players, including Ray Lewis, regarding Kaepernick. That’s right…they asked Ray Lewis, of whom fans outside of Baltimore still have a very negative perception, what they should do.
And they said this publicly!
There is an entire group of people – fans, writers, observers – who are convinced that Kaepernick is being black-balled from the NFL. This group says that Colin has shown the ability to play at a high level, and the fact that other, worse quarterbacks, keep getting jobs while he remains unsigned is proof that NFL owners are “punishing” him for his protests. Among this group is ESPN’s Bomani Jones.
Here’s what Jones had to say after Bisciotti’s comments came out on Sunday:
what's bunch of cowards https://t.co/58bP7pnjKV
— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) July 30, 2017
do it or don't, but the ravens shouldn't even bring kap up unless they know whether they're willing or not. this is ridiculous.
— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) July 30, 2017
This is where my problem with the Ravens’ approach in the case of Kaepernick comes into play.
By waffling in their decision-making, by stating that they are considering signing him, but are also aware of the negative public reaction that would arise from the signing, by saying that they asked Ray Lewis (of all people) for advice, they are turning a PR headache into a PR nightmare.
They are somehow managing to bring about the worst of both worlds – turning the ire of both the pro-Kaepernick AND anti-Kaepernick crowds against them.
Do you think the 37% of fans mentioned earlier want to hear that the Ravens are still considering Kap? Do you think the “Kap is being black-balled!” crowd wants to hear that, well, they WOULD sign him, but that might make fans mad?
No! Neither side wants to hear what the Ravens are currently preaching, and as a result, EVERYONE is mad at them.
Who is in charge here? Where is PR Direction Kevin Byrne to say, “hey guys…crap or get off the pot! This is bad for us!”
Either sign him – accept the PR hit that will come, and deal with it (heck, the team would GAIN fans as well as lose them. There are plenty of folks pulling for Kaepernick. I have no idea if they’d lose or gain more fans, but there would absolutely be numbers on both sides of the table) OR come out and DEFINITIVELY STATE that you have no interest in signing the man, and move on.
The latter move would put the minds of those 37% of fans at rest. While it would also annoy/enrage the Pro-Kap crowd, they would also quickly move on. After all, 31 other teams are also at fault here, right?
Instead, the team is trying to play both sides here, and they are making fools of themselves as a result.
Want proof? These are the kinds of tweets that come out when you say you asked the advice of a man who was once accused of murder for his opinion on signing a guy who has never been arrested:
— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) July 30, 2017
Kaepernick should wear a white suit to the signing ceremony. https://t.co/Gt0oCNW4CL
— David Cochrane (@CochraneCBC) July 30, 2017
Yup! The peanut gallery is out in full force now, and the Ravens brass laid out the red carpet for them.
What sense does any of this make? None, in my humble opinion.
Sign the man. Or don’t.
But stop trying to make everyone happy. You’re only inviting further ridicule.