Ravens’ National Anthem Singer Resigns, Citing ‘Country’s Cultural Crisis’

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Joey Odoms (right) with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. Photo via BaltimoreRavens.com.

After three dutiful years of singing for the Baltimore Ravens franchise, Joey Odoms is done belting out “The Star-Spangled Banner” at M&T Bank Stadium.

Joey Odoms, a Maryland Army National Guard member who served in Afghanistan, shared a statement on his Instagram and Facebook pages last night announcing his resignation.

“The people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at the Ravens organization have been nothing but nice to me,” he said. “However the tone/actions of a large number of NFL fans in the midst of our country’s cultural crisis, have convinced me that I do not belong there. Someone once told me to always ‘go where you’re welcomed.’ This is not an emotional reaction to recent events, rather an ethical decision that part of me regrets but my core knows is the right choice.”

Odoms thanked the franchise and fans “for the opportunity to grow as a performer and for allowing me to live out my dream of sharing my gift with you.”

Odoms initially didn’t make it clear where he stands on the practice of players around the NFL kneeling during the National Anthem. But in a second Facebook post last night, he wrote rather clearly, “Fans who attack players for protesting, (a right in which I fought to defend) but are simply not interested in understanding why, is the reason I am resigning.”

Incidences of kneeling as a form of protest spiked this past weekend after President Donald Trump demeaned the player who does so as a “son of a bitch” who deserves to be fired. The practice began during the 2016 preseason with ex-49er Colin Kaepernick, who did it to protest police brutality, systemic racism and other issues. It eventually spread to other players and teams, and as of last week, other sports.

The football world responded emphatically to Trump this past weekend. Players on pretty much every team knelt, linked arms or placed their hands on kneeling colleagues’ backs during National Anthem performances on NFL Sunday. A handful of current Ravens and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis were among them. Head coach John Harbaugh and team owner Steve Bisciotti backed the players’ right to demonstrate in public comments or statements.

The backlash from angry fans has been fierce, with some deciding to burn their jerseys and share it online. One fan even started a well-circulated (editor’s note: and poorly worded) petition to tear down Lewis’ bronze statue outside M&T Bank Stadium.

According to a 2014 report from Baltimore Ravens reporter Ryan Mink, Odoms previously worked in Baltimore as a 911 operator and served as a chemical operations specialist in Afghanistan. He’s originally from Reservoir Hill.

As he told the site then, he felt a deep connection with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” given that Francis Scott Key wrote the very song at Fort McHenry in 1812. “Being from Baltimore makes it mean something,” told Mink. “It’s the close correlation it has with my city, which is an underdog city.”

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