Ravens National Anthem Policy Hits Wrong Notes

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The Star Spangled Banner, the U.S. National Anthem – the most important song in American history and it was written, as public address announcer Bruce Cunningham tells us before every game, “right here in Baltimore.”

That is true, as Baltimore lawyer Francis Scott Key penned the lyrics to the tune while aboard a British vessel, the HMS Tonnant, while trying to negotiate the release of several War of 1812 prisoners and saw the American flag still flying while he watched the Battle of Fort McHenry take place from his quarters below decks.

The poem Key wrote was later set to a popular song of the times and became the anthem heard today before nearly every American sporting event, political, and military event.

What is also true is that Key’s Anthem, meant to be shared with the American public, has been far less- than-shared when it comes to the performance of it in the town in which it was written.

Since the Ravens arrival as an NFL franchise in 1996, only one person has sung nearly every National Anthem at the team’s games: Mishael Miller.

(Now, here is where I want to make a full disclosure and take myself out of the discussion: I have personally performed the Anthem at sporting events including Orioles, Baltimore Mariners, Bay Area Shuckers, and University of Maryland women’s basketball games.

I can personally attest how hard it is to sing this song, and I have been singing professionally since 2008 and in choirs and bands since second grade. I think Miller does a truly outstanding job in his performance of the song, and is a great singer. Nothing in this column should even suggest otherwise. Also, I am not writing this column to seek (for myself) a chance to sing at a Ravens game. In fact, I would ask the Ravens not to consider me for this even if given the chance because I want to write this piece objectively.)

Having said all of that, other than the network-TV or NFL-required “subs” for Miller, nobody else, in a city as diverse and talented as Baltimore, and a market as diverse and talented as the Baltimore/DC market is, has been allowed by the Ravens to perform the song.

Miller himself is a graduate of Morgan State University and is a local assistant pastor (at A.M.E. Zion Church) when he’s not singing for the Ravens. His performances are always passionate and he usually hits all the right notes, though he curiously often pronounces the word “banner” as “ban-nor” but that’s just a stylistic, picky point. He does a great job, but he’s not the only good singer in the area, and the Ravens’ policy is depriving the City from showcasing many of the other talented performers it has.

That’s just plain wrong.

Baltimore has one of the foremost music institutes in the country (Peabody) for which even Miller successfully auditioned (but did not attend), yet no other singing stars produced from the school ever get to sing the Anthem.

There are touring shows that come in and out of town almost weekly to the Hippodrome with some of the greatest voices Broadway has to loan to Baltimore. Yet none of them are ever offered a shot.

Baltimore has produced some of the finest actors and performers in the entertainment business including Dru Hill, Mario, and Jada Pinkett to name a few. Yet none of them get to sing the song.

The US military, with its great singers in multiple armed forces groups, has been nearly shut out from singing (but for a one-off when Miller had a scheduling conflict). Talented young children, from Carver Center or School for the Arts? They too have been shunned by the team.

Ditto any of the hot indie bands that have come out of Baltimore, including Beach House, which is one of the biggest acts anywhere, except when it comes to being asked to sing the National Anthem.

The Ravens declaring a monopoly on the most sacred secular song in America doesn’t make any sense – even though Miller is just doing what team is asking him to do – is a stupid policy and should be changed.

I reached out to the Ravens for their comment on this story and they responded with the following statement from Assistant Director of Public Relations Patrick Gleason:

“Except for rare occasions when the NFL provides a singer for nationally-televised games, Mishael has been at nearly every game – and, we’ve done that since the franchise began in 1996. Mishael singing the Anthem has become a Ravens’ tradition. He represents Baltimore exceptionally well, as he’s a Morgan State grad who has strong ties to the area. In addition to that, Mishael is outstanding, and he can sing Anthems of various lengths. From a practical standpoint, he can hurry if TV needs us to finish quickly for its run-down, or he can stretch it out if we’re waiting for a flyover. That’s a valuable and unique asset he provides.”

Gleason also mentioned a few of the national TV-game Anthem singers, including Lee Greenwood (2005), Javier Colon (“The Voice” contestant, in 2012) and the aforementioned U.S. Army Chorus performance on Miller’s scheduling conflict (before the Carolina Panthers game, but that’s not really diversity, but rather one-offs for only select games.

The Ravens’ point that Miller can tailor an Anthem to their liking – and based on TV needs – is important, but not to the extent that no one else should get a shot.

On the flip side, the Ravens shouldn’t get rid of Miller, either. Yet, it would hurt absolutely no one to allow other singers for five games, including national TV games, and Miller the other five on the home schedule. That would be a much more sensible if fairness is a guide.

It should also be said that the Ravens policy of having one singer was one that began when the team was still in Cleveland, as Miller noted in a 2012 article in The Baltimore Afro-American.

“They told me they had a permanent singer when the franchise was still the Browns… so they wanted a permanent singer in Baltimore too and I was the right man for the job,” said Miller to the newspaper.

But with other sports teams in the area like the Orioles, Blast, and college teams all willing to have multiple singers, why can’t the Ravens do it too?

After 17 years, at least some degree of change makes sense.

Should the Ravens alternate singers of the National Anthem?
Yes it would be a refreshing change (48%)
No Mishael Miller does a great job (52%)
This poll has completed. Thank you for voting.
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About Tom Moore

Tom Moore
TOM MOORE is from Baltimore and writes on sports for Press Box, and he previously served as a columnist for The Baltimore Examiner on many topics related to Baltimore and Maryland. Described by many as a ‘Renaissance man,’ Mr. Moore has hosted the weekly radio program The Tom Moore Show...more

31 Raves on “Ravens National Anthem Policy Hits Wrong Notes

  1. Debi on said:

    Thank you! I agree that Miller does an outstanding job, but why can’t they showcase some other local talent. I’m thinking about the game tomorrow – last thanksgiving game we had it was the marching band for halftime, geez I do get tradition but when the rest of the world is watching get some real talent!

    • Not a FAN on said:

      I just wish that he would stop singing “banure,” instead of “banner” (sounds like “manure”). It really grates me when I hear him sing that part. Otherwise, I can take him or leave him.

    • Mike on said:

      I have no problem with Mr. Miller being the sole singer of our National Anthem. If I recall, during the Colts time in Baltimore, the Colt Marching Band’s drum major Richard Otto performed the Anthem almost exclusively, also.

    • Joel S on said:

      We win when he signs, we lose when he doesn’t. I prefer winning thank you. Keep Mr. Miller. For those who want to hear different voices, watch the Voice. This is football!

      • Hannah Miller on said:

        I agree with you. My brother has been singing from as young as one until present. God given gift its.The writer wrote this with ill intentions. Karma is real. I will be available to write my opinion on your life .

  2. Garry Judy on said:

    Miller is a Ravens tradition singing the National Anthem. I am sad when other singers are chosen by the league. My sister-in-law is a talented professional singer and has done The Anthem at sporting events (MLB, NFL, etc..) all over the country. She respects the Ravens choice and doesn’t complain about it.
    Furthermore, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” is a great song but should it AlWAYS be played during the Middle-7th along with the 7th Inning Stretch for thr Orioles? There are so many other great songs. Yes, it should be played as it is a tradition to pipe in the voice of Denver singing that song. To me it is a similar argument.
    I am sure you are a great singer but they already have one. He was able to get the gig in 1996. That was the chance for competition.

  3. J on said:

    Miller is amazing! Having a different singer each game suddenly makes the moment about that singer and their performance and not the anthem.

    ….now, can we please discuss the marching band!?! Ugh!

      • ERey on said:

        On that note, why can’t we have different bands at halftime or even the cheerleaders (the female ones). Maybe have some local kids plays a scrimmage game.

      • J on said:

        Tony is absolutely correct! Give the seats to a veterans group or under-privileged kids or something or just put them up for sale.

        The Marching Ravens, while full of tradition, just aren’t very good. I’d like to see them continue to do the pre-game but then give halftime to a local high school or college band. There are many excellent groups that are worthy of the opportunity.

        The cheerleaders do a great job. No changes there!

  4. Brie on said:

    I went to game where Dru Hill sang the national anthem. Sisqo (the lead singer) dyed his hair purple for it. Such an awesome experience…not sure why Miller didn’t do it that day but a change up in singers would be great.

  5. John on said:

    I read this article and I think – who cares? I feel like I’m in my daughter’s first grade class and all the kids want to be the teacher’s helper.

    I get your point. And the article was extremely well-written. I can truly appreciate that. You took great pain not to insult Miller, and should be commended for that.

    I have no ties to Miller (this is the first time I’ve ever heard his name, TBH). But honestly, if you’re spending your time fretting over this, you probably don’t have enough going on in your life.

    It’s Thanksgiving. It’s Steeler’s week! Heck, Miller probably won’t be singing it tomorrow anyway.

    Let’s play football!

  6. HollywoodHeiz on said:

    All of the “local talent” have 80+ chances at every O’s game. Why settle for substandard ( a word being thrown around a lot lately) when you already have the best.

  7. ERey on said:

    THANK YOU!!! I’ve been saying this exact thing for years. All I want is a little variety. But for some unknown reason when I bring this up and say the word “variety” people can’t hear correctly and assume I’m dissing Mr. Miller’s talent. Nothing could be further from the truth. But I would like to see other people, especially Baltimore natives, show their talent and artistry as well. I love the Ravens, but the reasons they give are just ridiculous and I’m not buying it. I’m sure it’s easier on them to just have the same guy show up every week and not have to look for talent. But if the O’s can find 81 singers, I’m sure the Ravens can handle finding 5 singers while Mishael sings the other 5.

  8. JB on said:

    Miller does a fine job so no change is needed.

    Let’s talk about dropping that ridiculous Lee Greenwood song though. Come on, enough is enough already. I can understand it became big after 9/11, but it’s time for a CHANGE with that horrible song. And I understand playing it on 9/11 anniversaries or on or near Veteran’s Day, but that’s it. No more. There are other less ear damaging songs that can be played to honor America while the colors are presented.

  9. Karen on said:

    He is part of the Ravens tradition. Does a beautiful job. We always try to get to our seats early so we don’t miss the wonderful patriotic pre-game show of which he is such a huge part. If it’s not broke, leave it alone. Goodness!! It’s Joe’s protection on the O line that needs some serious replacement discussion!! Just my opinion!!

  10. Steve on said:

    The Ravens should use Mishael until he can no longer perform the anthem. I’ve heard the anthem performed at scores of other stadia and arenas, and no one, bar none, performs it better than him. Why not have the best at all of the games?

  11. Fran the Fan on said:

    Tom, thanks for the column. I’ve been a season ticket holder for well over 10 years and for some time I’ve thought that all non-football activities at M&T Bank need to be looked at. In fact, I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a column that RESPECTFULLY proposes some changes to the pre-game and half-time activities, but I’ve held back for fear that I’d be thought as being a) unpatriotic, b) a grinch, c) a spoil sport, or a combination of all 3. My thoughts include:

    1) Mishael Miller indeed does a great job, but how about rotating the national anthem among other professionally trained singers?

    2) Keep the patriotic pre-game theme by all means, but can we change the song the color guard marches into the stadium to another song/singer? I’m repeating earlier comments but Lee Greenwood is getting old. Rotate the song among other patriotic airs such as America the Beautiful.

    3) The half time “show” is a complete waste. There is absolutely no reason to sit in your seats to watch high schoolers play toss and catch (unless you’re a relative) and then listen to a band nobody pays attention to.

    4) I’m dating myself but back in the day at old Memorial the Colts used to rotate college bands in. Now that was a half-time show! I’d like to see that re-instituted.

    5) I agree with Tony that the band needs to give up those seats.

    6) Now if we could talk Steve Bisciotti into giving up some ad space and get a REAL scoreboard…..

  12. Bg on said:

    Two things, I have been to Ravens away games and I think our pregame show is the best out of any stadiums in the area. No reason to change what is not broken, I thought we in Baltimore love to hear the national anthem song right? Miller does that every single Sunday (sometimes Thursdays, and Mondays). So, why risk it?

    Also to the Band Comments; I personally love the Band, I hope you guys are not forgetting the part they played in having this Stadium and Oriole Park built. If you need a refresher on how important the Band is watch the 30 for 30 special on them.

  13. Ravcolt on said:

    I believe in substance over fairness. Having debated in the past over Mishael Miller’s rendition of the National Anthem, this is an interesting question. Frankly, I have heard many other vocalists versions and none of them can compare, IMO, to Miller’s version sung ‘as written by the author.’ Personally, as long as Miller continues to sing the Anthem as he does, he should remain. I would advocate, however, for someone to sing ‘Maryland, My Maryland’ or another song, prior to the Anthem, and use that as a vehicle to showcase other talent. Baltimore reveres tradition, and Mishael Miller is now among it. If only our offense could be as consistent as Mishael.

  14. paulie on said:

    Miller is a talented singer and does the anthem well. And while the Ravens have a point that there are other technical considerations (especially for a televised game), any accomplished singer should be able to hit their marks and perform without incident. There are accomplished singers from Baltimore who perform the National Anthem before games in other cities. That’s just not right.

  15. Crabman on said:

    The singing of the National Anthem should not be left to one singer. The entire stadium should be singing it. Now, that’s Baltimore!

  16. Tom Moore on said:

    While I think having a new voice in on the National Anthem is a good thing, I will point out that Mr. Miller’s departure had absolutely nothing to do with my column and everything to do with a terrific new job opportunity to be a pastor in Birmingham, AL. He’s work honoring the country over his long Ravens career has been tremendous and I wish him well in his new endeavor.

    • Stephaine on said:

      I think your intentions where not right and had no place at all to comment or even make a article about this marvlous young man because you wouldn’t have the time or the gut’s to do it in front of a large crowd of that size. You people need to stop making stuff out of anything. You are correct your column did not have anything to do with why he is leaving the man above have different plans for Mr. Miller.

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