By Jonathan Munshaw, Baltimore Business Journal
The empty purple seats at M&T Bank Stadium as the Ravens battled for a playoff spot on Sunday capped a major, and uncharted, hurdle the team faced this season: Getting fans to come to games.
Despite reported attendance being down just 0.7 percent from 2016, there were clearly empty seats throughout the season, even as the Ravens were contending for the postseason through literally the final minute of the season. Posts on social media have shown a number of fans voicing displeasure over members of the team kneeling during a game in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team's blow-out loss of 44-7 didn't help.
Joseph Murphy, a season-ticket holder for the Ravens, said he immediately went to sell his personal seat license online after the protests. He said he has yet to receive an offer, despite listing them for $2,000 less than what he initially paid.
"I have gone to a few games since I can't even give the tickets away but it is just not the same," Murphy, an insurance salesman, said. "The people around me are different as most die hards have sold or given away their tickets and it is just not the same as it used to be before the disrespect of our flag took place."
While the protests are certainly one factor in why attendance was down this year, sports marketing experts say the Ravens — and its NFL peers — are dealing with a variety of threats to in-game attendance, including the lure of the big-screen television, a change in viewing habits, problems with scheduling and President Donald Trump encouraging fans to boycott games.
In response, Ravens President Dick Cass wrote a letter to fans Dec. 22 asking them for support during the final two home games, citing protests as a major factor in a decline of fan interest.
"We had the poor showing in London, complicated by the kneeling of a dozen players during the National Anthem," the letter reads. "That became an emotional and divisive issue. We know that hurt some of you."