It seems paradoxical: The Ravens, who have sold out every home game since they arrived in Baltimore in 1996, are advertising tickets for Sunday’s contest at M&T Bank Stadium.
But this is where the Ravens find themselves in 2017: Contemplating the prospect of empty seats, and appealing to fans to “Win Together. Purchase your tickets today!” even as the team is contending for what would be its first playoff berth since 2014.
Thousands of fans are trying to resell their tickets to the sold-out game Sunday against the Detroit Lions at 71,000-seat M&T Bank Stadium via Ticketmaster, the team’s official resale outlet, or StubHub. Seats were available this week in almost every section; an $80 ticket for an upper end zone seat could be had for as little as $29.
Every week, some ticket holders must miss the game. But the NFL is laboring across the board this season to maintain its fan base and minimize no-shows. It’s not just the Ravens. Television ratings are down league-wide and empty seats can be seen at many games.
The league faces troubles on multiple fronts this year from politics to health and the game itself. There’s fan anger, stoked by President Donald Trump, over the decision of some players to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequity and police brutality; injuries to star players such as Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers; fresh concerns about the long-term effects of hits and concussions on players’ brains; and inconsistent play.
“The Ravens are finding themselves in the same situation as a lot of NFL teams this year,” said T.J. Brightman, president of A. Bright Idea, a public relations and marketing firm with offices in Bel Air and California. “There is a disengagement by fans across the country stemming from the daily and weekly stories the NFL league office confronts.”
The Ravens, who seem unable to mount a threatening offense, exemplify the challenge on the field. The team ranks 31st of 32 NFL teams in total offense (although, true-to-form, the defense is among the league’s best; the team is the first since the 2003 Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots to record three shutouts in a season).