Dealing with the Disconnect

Street Talk Dealing with the Disconnect

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This is not going to be your traditional Steelers/Ravens matchup Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

There is still angst among both fanbases over players taking a knee during the National Anthem in Week 3. If social media is any indication, many fans plan to boycott this week’s game. Some have even vowed to never watch the NFL again.

A petition to tear down the Ray Lewis statue at M&T Bank Stadium has gotten so much attention extra security was hired to protect the monument.

It’s a divisive topic because there is also a large group of fans that support the player’s stance and their right to freedom of speech.

This is easily the most volatile period in Ravens history.

The coaches and players understand the anger of some of the fans. However, John Harbaugh was more focused on putting together a game plan for the Steelers, rather than worrying about how many people are going to be watching from the stands.

The winner of this game will take over first place in the AFC North at the quarter point of the season.

“We’re spending our time getting ready for the game,” Harbaugh said this week. “That’s what you do as a coach. That was my first point. That’s what we’re doing; we’re getting ready for this game. We had a morning full of meetings on the opponent we’re going to play – the Pittsburgh Steelers – who we respect tremendously. We’re getting ready to play a football game, and that’s what we do, and that’s all we can do.

“The other issues are bigger than that; they are beyond our ability to address and deal with that, but we can focus on the task at hand, and that’s our responsibility. That’s our job, and that’s what we’re required to do.”

The players have stayed unified in their support for one another. The protest is supposed to bring more attention to social injustice. However, it was also a reaction to comments made by President Donald Trump, who said players should be fired for taking a knee.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a (expletive) off the field right now,” Trump said, via USA Today. “Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

These comments did not go over well with the players and this boosted the movement for taking a knee.

In Week 3, Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva broke rank and stood in the tunnel with his hand over his heart during the Anthem while his teammates stayed in the locker room. The following day, he had the top selling jersey in the NFL, but later said it was “very embarrassing” for not going along with the rest of the players’ plan.

The players on the Ravens plan to stay unified. The team has already discussed what they are going to do during the National Anthem on Sunday. However, they are keeping those plans private until the actual moment arrives.

If the Bears/Packers game on Thursday night was any indication, the players and coaches will lock arms, rather than kneeling. The players appear to be tired of the controversy and answering questions about whether they plan to kneel.

“We have to get back to playing football eventually, so we are going to keep it private amongst the team, but our main focus this week is the Pittsburgh Steelers,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said about Sunday.

At this point, we could all use some normalcy.

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Todd Karpovich

About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich

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