Joey Odoms, the official national anthem singer for the Ravens since 2014, resigned Tuesday. The Baltimore native was not specific about the cause for his departure, just four weeks into the season, but he said that "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."
"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 said in a post on Instagram. He stepped away from his job with the Ravens two days after several members of the team, plus former linebacker and team leader Ray Lewis, took a knee during the national anthem before a game against the Jaguars in London.
Every NFL game this past weekend featured some forms of protest or what players and owners described as demonstrations of unity, as they stood with arms linked during the anthem. Three teams — the Steelers, Titans and Seahawks — stayed in the locker room for the anthem, after players could not arrive at a unanimous decision on whether to stand, kneel or do something different.
The leaguewide demonstrations were, in large part, a reaction to President Trump, who said last week that NFL players who protested during the anthem should be fired. Trump also used a profane phrase in his comments, and he continued his sharp criticisms on Twitter before and during the weekend's games.
Odoms, a former member of the Maryland National Guard who served tours of duty in Afghanistan, said on Instagram, "Someone once told me to always 'go where you're welcomed.' " He described members of the Ravens' organization as "nothing but nice to me."
His time in Afghanistan produced his initial contact with the team, as Odoms was introduced to Ravens Coach John Harbaugh when the latter visited his base in Kandahar. According to the Ravens' website, Odoms had told the coach that he'd like to become the team's next anthem singer, then won a contest the following year for just that position.
"We greatly appreciate the work Joey did for us and we thank him," Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne said to the Baltimore Sun.
Note: Previous versions of this post referred to Odoms as "a member of the Maryland National Guard." He has been a former member as of Aug. 2016.
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