Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh privately vowed to help Nestor Aparicio with his media credential bullying situation with Chad Steele in any way he could. Weeks later, Aparicio was exterminated. Harbaugh then told him he was unhappy about it but powerless because it wasn’t his department in Owings Mills.
Here I am again for another season but this one is going to be a little different. As you know, I’m the expatriated professional journalist over here, locked out and more prepared than ever to be focused on all of your words, deeds and acts this season as head coach as I chronicle the 27th season of Baltimore Ravens football on the radio, via video, audio, podcast and my weekly #ColumnNes dispatches with the same insightful incisiveness that my audience demands of work.
I’ll be on the outside, watching on television of course, because that’s where you want me. I’m now a “blogger” who has owned a radio station for 25 years but is no longer considered a real local sports journalist according to your franchise. (Even though, you write me such beautiful words telling me that I belong in The Castle doing my job. But that’s the private thing you and I have that I’m not allowed to talk about. Until today…)
My disposal at the hands of Chad Steele just means you’ll see even one less friendly media face in Los Angeles and Glendale and San Francisco and London this fall after those big road games. Maybe there’ll be just one or two corporate “media” members there at the podium this year (and some of your co-worker “reporters”) instead of a gang of four to hit you with all of those tough questions about Lamar and company after a road loss? Or maybe no one from the local media will even show up at Tottenham – it’s a $10,000 trip these days – and you’d finally get back to your dream scenario of those gawdawful Zoom days of the plague and staring into a screen that made the least favorite part of your job a little easier. You know how tough those legitimate reporters can be from the team website!
Everyone who follows the team knows you have a hard time with truth and questions you don’t like at the podium, especially now that the season has begun. Today, we can learn a little more about your role – or lack thereof if you believe the purple fairy dust – in the snuffing out of my professional status, access and credibility by the Baltimore Ravens.
As hard as it’ll be for you to believe when you’re done with this missive, I am looking forward to chronicling your season and watching your team play. Your team is loaded and expectations are high. I have loved football since my Pop took me to Memorial Stadium to see the Baltimore Colts play Joe Namath and the New York Jets on September 23, 1973. Over the last 50 years, I’ve never missed an NFL Sunday in my life. I’ll be here doing what I always do – writing the truth and reporting on behalf of Baltimore sports fans. I even had the great Dan Pastorini – my first NFL hero – on the show this week.
It’s what I was born to do, talk sports, football and Baltimore. Ask anyone who has ever known me. I was the one here in the early 1990s dreaming of having a football team again and talking about it on the radio every day. I bought PSLs. I bought the Purple Kool Aid. I wrote two books on parades in this city from the inside. I love your sport.
And like I’ve told everyone I’ve met in this business since Gene Ubriaco and Barry Trotz, Johnny Oates and Don Matthews, Ted Marchibroda and Herb Brown, Brian Billick and Davey Johnson and Mike Hargrove – I was here in Baltimore the day you got here and I’ll be here the day you’re gone. While you’re here, I sincerely hope we can have some fun and do our jobs respectfully. I have a long track record of getting along with coaches. Sometimes, even when I don’t have a relationship with a coach or a manager, I later hear real truth from their wives on the internet.
You and I have never had that problem. We’ve always been good, even when we’ve had a snit or a difference of opinion. You don’t hold grudges. You told me that when I wrote Purple Reign 2.
I’ve always done my part, covering you and your team fairly and with the accountability that comes with having to see you face-to-face a few times a week and stand behind my words with my person.
Now, you won’t see me ever again, which is the way you want it. But I won’t be hiding.
I’ve been watching all of your summer press conferences online and dispatching Luke Jones to Owings Mills – as the only approved member of my organization to be allowed to breathe the same purple oxygen of excellence as the Baltimore Ravens. We air some of your press conference pronouncements on WNST-AM 1570 and Baltimore Positive but I’m not allowed to speak with you or communicate with you any longer, per your communications chief Chad Steele.
Besides, I had felt that I said all I need to say to you last December 12th via text after you walked into the press room on the Pittsburgh’s visiting locker room side that I’ve done my job in for 25 years after every Steelers-Ravens game ever played and you looked at me like I was somehow cordially invited and feigned that you were glad to see me. Or like you weren’t a part of the process that threw me out. And that I shouldn’t acknowledge that fact.
It had only been a few months of questions about my credibility and professional status at that time. Now, it’s been a full year of hearing from every fan I run into on the streets of Baltimore and far more via social media and email:
“What did do you do wrong, Nestor? Why would the Ravens throw you out? You’ve been their biggest ambassador and promoter over 30 years! Why are you the only one in the local media whom they’ve thrown out? Why have they treated you this way? WHAT DID YOU DO WRONG!?!
“I thought John Harbaugh always liked you and respected you? How could he be a part of doing this to you and your business and your professional reputation?”
I lit you up privately on that text back on the morning of December 13th in my final missive and you and the whole franchise of yours deserve it – making me come in the media side door off the Three Rivers like a bandit as a credentialed media guest of the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers 258 miles from home trying to cover a Baltimore Ravens football game and do my job for your fans. Being legitimized by the arch-enemy while being de-legitimized and having my professional status terrorized by you and your franchise after 27 years of following your all over the world as a vocation that allows me to feed my family.
I texted you:
“Welcome” you said. Strange because in 7 hours at the stadium on Sunday in Pittsburgh you were the only human being who acknowledged my existence. I certainly didn’t feel welcomed by anyone outside of the Steelers PR professionals who rightfully gave me a pass to do my job. No one from your franchise would even make eye contact with me because what you have allowed and enabled Chad Steele to do to me, my reputation and my business is so shameful and wrong. And the only reason I was sitting in that press conference is because Mike Tomlin has more integrity than anyone in your building to do the right thing and allow a lifer media member the fair access to do his job after 26 years. Meanwhile, as always, I did my job on Sunday.
You once again feigned no responsibility for having me extricated from my press access after years of telling me you would help me build a better relationship inside your building. I have all of this in writing, John, in your words.
On December 13th you offered me:
“I don’t know why you refuse to understand that I am cut OUT of that decision. I have NO PART in that. I ALWAYS treat you with the utmost respect as you deserve. Have ALWAYS answered the bell when you requested my help in your charitable projects and for people you cared about. If you want to push me away and to attack my integrity for NO REASON at all and contrary to what you know to be true, that’s up to you.”
Don’t worry, John, I won’t be there in October to ask all of those tough questions after another win over the Steelers. Somebody has already gotten to Tomlin on his side because I’ve even lost the Rooney family along the way in this de-legitimization process with your franchise. Mike Tomlin has ghosted me this year, doesn’t know me anymore. (That must’ve been a helluva weekend at The Biltmore!)
I guess he got the same memo that the Cincinnati Bengals got last January and the one the NFL got when it banned me from taking my radio show to the Super Bowl and Radio Row for the first time since the Ravens became a franchise in 1996.
I’m not a real media member anymore because Chad Steele said so. That’s what the Bengals and Mike Signora of the National Football League told me when they were honoring his de-legitimization of my career, my company, my work (and Luke’s work in the NFL and as a member of Pro Football Writers of America) and my audience.
John, I always believed you were great with people and at heart, an honest and integrity-based individual. Even when you’ve been lying through your teeth about a player or an injury (strategy, of course) and your eyes are shifting sideways – this is your tell, you’d be a terrible poker player – while I was sitting in the front row seat, center aisle during your Ravens press conferences over the years, I’ve always thought you to be someone who cares about people. Someone, who when given the choice, would always do the right thing by people off the field. Especially people whom you care about. And after seeing two of your boisterous Fellowship of Christian Athletes speeches with Frank Kelly over the years, that your stance on God and Christianity wouldn’t allow you to purposefully do the wrong thing. That you would always do the right thing. I wrote a book about all of that 10 years ago in Purple Reign 2. You seemed to like it at the time when you called me while recuperating that summer of 2013.
Your words when my wife’s life was teetering back in December 2015 meant something to me. You grabbed me and pulled me into your locker room to pray with me Christmas week after Ryan Mallett beat the Steelers. You asked me how she was doing and I confided that I honestly didn’t know if she was going to make it. She had been in a coma and hadn’t been lucid in weeks. I spent every minute from Thanksgiving until Christmas preparing for her to die, knowing she was in tremendous jeopardy and losing her fight. You tried to comfort me, and I appreciate that. So did she when she survived.
As you are quick to point out – and I will gladly commend you – the only time in our 17 years of relationship that I asked you do something for me and my wife and her charity There Goes My Hero, you came through. We appreciated it. It was special.
(That has nothing to do with you throwing me out of your building; but everything to do with it.)
I wrote a 480-page book about the integrity of you and your franchise: “Faith, Family and Football.”
I’ve been down some hard professional paths with you – after the toughest of losses, including when you came clean to me in Indianapolis six weeks later about the pain of that Cundiff loss in 2012. I’ve been there for all of the wins and losses – bus rides, train rides and plenty of time in airports and hotels and rental cars – all the way back to Ted Marchibroda in 1996. I was also standing there at the same Gillette Stadium podium when you went back into Foxborough and beat Brady and Belichick to go the Super Bowl in 2013.
And then into New Orleans where all of the magic happened 10 years ago. I know you missed the parade down Poydras but it’ll show itself again in our WNST Top 25 Stories of Glory as we countdown the greatest moments of impact in the history of my insignificant little AM radio station.
I’ve been the first face you’ve seen at every post-game press conference for as long as you’ve been the head coach. For many years on the road, you saw my wife running post-game sound for our radio station while I worked the visiting locker room where only a handful of reporters ever worked after out-of-town games. No one cared but we worked harder, which is how we’ve survived as a small, local media outlet that always out-kicked corporate media coverage. WNST was always represented at your press conferences. Home. Away. Summer. Winter. In dozens of cities. Wherever you went. No one ever covered the Baltimore Ravens better than my little media machine. This website at www.baltimorepositive.com is a testament to our work.
I own WNST. This is how I provide for my family. And I don’t make $12 million a year and have $100 million in the bank. I go to work every day and bust my ass to add value to local businesses and the community – just like my commitment to probably being the only guy from Dundalk you’ve ever met who owns an FCC license that demands serving the public interest and being accountable and front facing as a local entrepreneur.
You always respected our industriousness and professionalism. We were omnipresent because we cared and were willing to “Work Harder” – and really represented all of that motivational and inspirational sloganry you love to put on your shirts. You and I have had some John Wooden chats privately over the years. You know who I really am.
Your wife, Ingrid, once texted me on a trip you made to New York for the Super Bowl in 2014 and you bee-lined from Bobby Flay’s restaurant on 51st Street into the Sheraton Media Center to do our radio show. We were the only Baltimore sports radio station broadcasting from Radio Row at the Super Bowl for 27 years – this used to make Kevin Byrne extremely proud – until my working media credentials were whacked by Chad Steele and your organization last year. You nearly destroyed my radio set knocking a water bottle onto my equipment on a live video stream that day and you saw my ultimate panic. (We still use this as a cautionary tale of keeping bottles and fluids away from the computers and radio gear!)
You once flew to Indianapolis for an NFL Combine on the same flight and insisted that Luke Jones and I hop in your cab for the ride into the city. And then the next morning, you woke up early in the bitter February cold of Indiana and came to our set to discuss the promise of your football team. I remember that one vividly because you did the old ballcoach-fuzzy-arm-wraparound and we strolled through the atrium at Lucas Oil Field and you tried to convince me that I was the best interviewer you’ve ever worked with on any radio set. You told me that I should be nationally syndicated! I told you that I’d already been there and done that and reminded you that it’s how I knew Brian Baldinger. You told me I should call Bryan Harlan about representation.
I know I’m great at what I do because you told me. And you would never lie! Or would you?
No one knows more about my personal commitment and my company’s commitment to cover the team more than you because you’ve seen me in 40 different cities over the last two decades working – doing my job of distilling and dispatching football and sports information for Baltimore Ravens fans. Being the first one at the NFL Owners Meetings at breakfast seated next to you doing my job – Florida or Arizona, working the whole time.
I’ve had your phone number and an open door from the beginning to communicate with you. Over the years, we’ve routinely gotten together once during the season and once off season – off the record – to discuss your roster, philosophies, concerns and insights. Your wife Ingrid has been trying to put a social dinner together with Jenn and I for at least a decade, even though I’m guessing we’ve had our last meal together, John.
And I’ve said this to your face – and on the air, and in writing and even behind your back – you’re a helluva football coach. And you might even win another Super Bowl and get your bust to Canton and have your brother give your induction speech. I wouldn’t bet against any of that. I’ll be writing and talking about it publicly for as long as you’re the coach and I’m still breathing. I’m not going anywhere. And Lamar Jackson is signed and you have the roster right where you want it. It’s a shame I don’t know the current players. It’s the first time in my life I watch total strangers in Baltimore Ravens uniforms on television. I have known every player who has ever wanted to be known, heard or polite.
John, I give you credit and honor because you’ve never run from me. As a matter of fact, the last time I was actually in a room with you and still trusted you, you and Ingrid gravitated toward me and spent an hour absolutely insisting on hearing my bullying situation in Palm Beach, Florida. I tried five times to exit the conversation because of the setting and you and Ingrid were over-the-top about trying to understand and be caring humans. I told you exactly what was on my mind regarding Chad Steele’s treatment of me and how wrong it was that me and my company were being locked out of a media sit down with the owner and that I was being threatened behind the scenes for my livelihood and my access. That was March 29, 2022 at the NFL Owners Meetings – seven months after I learned that I had been targeted for elimination. This was not the first time you heard about Chad Steele’s disdain for me – far from it.
I’ve known you for almost 17 years now, John. I’ve known your brother Jim longer; since he came onto the old Owings Mills Boulevard campus in 1998 as the Ravens quarterback and we hit it off and still stay in touch.
(You know, sometimes, fans – especially in Ohio – even disparage your brother as the dark side of your coaching family. Even though he’s in a timeout right now, I know better because I knew him first. That night at The Bayou in 1998, I saw his soul. And since I’m no longer communicating with you two-way, please let him know that the Santoni family appreciated his Wolverines love last year. He’ll know what that means.)
Your father, Jack, a wonderful man, attended a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game with me and Jenn back in 2015 on our MLB 30-30 #GiveASpit charity tour with your encouragement for the bone marrow registry and There Goes My Hero. Your Dad even stood up for me and my wife at the St. Regis in Dana Point back in 2009. We appreciated that. We love your father!
I really don’t know where to begin with the inherent dishonesty in all of this – the notion that the Baltimore Ravens aren’t just not recognizing me as a media member, they are calling the rest of the league to lock me out, de-legitimize me and attempt to wreck my livelihood and professional reputation as well is deplorable. I will attack it directly and with facts and a timeline of your words and deeds done onto me as the face of the franchise and its unquestioned leader.
I have direct, honest texts with you in my phone back to at least February 2020 outlining my difficulties in dealing with Chad Steele. I sat in your office right before the plague (February 26, 2020) and we chatted for two hours about life, the virus in China was in the news, Trump, football, your inner peace, etc. I told you I was strongly considering running for Mayor of Baltimore. You said you wanted to be supportive. I told you I was doing this new thing with Baltimore Positive in having chats with thought leaders and community champions and business minds about leadership. It was the next step in my evolution as a then 51-year old human, entrepreneur, business owner and citizen of this community who has preached truth as a foundational principle.
I told you how Brian Billick sent every coach he ever hired over to my station to get to know Ravens fans. David Shaw. Rex Ryan. Jack Del Rio. Donnie Henderson. Marvin Lewis. Mike Nolan. Rick Neuheisel. Mike Pettine. Matt Cavanaugh. Even Kirk Ferentz and Don Strock came to The Barn with Ted. Jim Schwartz called in every Friday for years when he was in Tennessee because he wanted to practice to be a head coach and felt he needed to be better at doing media. Dan Jeremiah did his first-ever media work with WNST at the behest of Phil Savage, who always educated my audience. Not to mention all of the scouts beginning with your partner Eric DeCosta, who will receive his letter next over at The Castle. (Yeah, that’s Ozzie Newsome in the back there, too!)
All of them sat with me in the offseason and talked about leadership, what made football players great and what made the Baltimore Ravens special. Sometimes for hours. Sometimes they even liked me enough to get a drink or have dinner. Sometimes years later, they’d stop me on the streets of Indianapolis at the NFL Combine and want to catch up. Sometimes, in the case of Anthony Weaver and Sam Koch, you even hired them as coaches after they’ve been guests as players.
Relationships are the cornerstone of my life.
These relationships and the work I do create the portrait of my life and career.
You even came to radio station and sat in the same studio all of the others did for a few hours at the very beginning. (I’m the one holding the camera.)
You loved the idea and promised me that you’d provide your assistant coaches on Baltimore Positive to tell their stories in the ill-fated spring of 2020. You told me to contact Chad Steele to set it up. I spent 15 minutes in your office telling you that he hated me because he thinks I said something about his sister many years ago and that he would never help me with anything – and never had.
Your text two hours after I left your office that day in February 2020:
“Thanks. I really enjoyed that! Hope to help where I can.”
I circled back 10 days later to set it up on March 10, 2020, and you replied:
“I spoke with Chad about it and he agreed to work with it. So reach out to him to organize. He should be cooperative.”
Clearly, 72 hours later everything changed in all of our worlds with COVID. I have still never had any of your coaches as a serious guest on my show in 17 seasons. Not one of them. Cameron. Zorn. Caldwell. Kubiak. Trestman. Mornhinweg. Roman. Monken. Mattison. Pees. Martindale. Macdonald. Not once. Ever.
Chuck Pagano did my show once he became the Indianapolis head coach and was my wife’s first phone call when she fell ill to leukemia. But I didn’t even know him when he was here. I wasn’t allowed to know him. I met him on Radio Row after Jim Irsay hired him and then got to know him at the NFL Owners Meetings. He gave me his number. We needed it for the most important call of our lives. Let Jenn tell you about it at 2:40:
Chuck Pagano is one of the most significant people in our lives because of what he did. He’s a coach. Anyone who knows me knows that coaches are my favorite people in sports and life.
You never wanted me to know your assistant coaches. That’s the way you always wanted it. I respected it even if I thought it was the strangest part of your deeply instilled paranoia. I told you that and we probably even laughed about it in February 2020. Either way, you offered your guys up as guests on the all-new Baltimore Positive.
When your team president Dick Cass sat down with me 18 months after the plague began, in July 2021, I approached him for assistance post-plague knowing Kevin Byrne was gone and Chad Steele believes whatever fiction he believes and had already begun limiting our WNST access during the 2020 plague year. Cass offered that you were being disingenuous in agreeing to allow your assistants to come on Baltimore Positive to discuss their journey and career path. He bristled: “John would never let his coaches on your show.”
Ya know, at this point, it’s a little like “Rosemary’s Baby,” John – I only have all of your words and deeds – but I don’t know who or what to believe.
When I go back and read your texts, it’s almost like you have been totally disingenuous in all of this chicanery with Chad Steele and my media access and my credibility as a professional reporter and the credibility of my organization to broadcast from Super Bowls, NFL Combines and NFL Owners Meetings – all where you’ve made time to chat with me on behalf of your fan base and the community.
John, everyone knows you don’t do anything you don’t want to do. (I also have this in writing from you.) You are the most significant human in the building in Owings Mills. You’re a made man. Everyone fears you. And if they don’t like you or respect you, they have to fake it or won’t make it.
You run the place. Every head coach does! That’s the way the NFL works. Ask any PR director. Ask any general manager. Ask anyone who really knows (and I know a lot of coaches). The building works on your schedule, at your pleasure. You are the ultimate leader!
Every time you told me you were committed to helping me, I was retaliated against and threatened further – until I was eradicated by Chad Steele on July 26, 2022, after covering virtually every press conference after every game of your tenure as Ravens head coach beginning in early 2009.
After all of this, you were involved behind closed doors with massive influence in what has been tremendously destructive to my credibility, unfairly limiting our company’s access while stacking it up for my competitors and then sending me text “bon-bons” as a back rub after having my business threatened and livelihood and credibility at stake as a professional after doing this work since 1984?
On March 31, 2022 – after you insisted that I contact the owner of the team with unfiltered information – I sent you the same letter that I wrote to Steve Bisciotti that morning in Palm Beach so you knew my intentions, tone and that I followed up professionally on what you and Ingrid told me 12 hours earlier. You wrote:
Thank you for sharing this. I sincerely hope this is all resolved very soon. There is no comfort in knowing about and living with this type of contention around what we all do. It’s not necessary. This is sports and it should be easy to get along with, and take care of one another. I’m praying for a resolution and am willing to help any way I can.
On April 5, 2022, an hour after I departed my “sit down” with Dick Cass and Chad Steele in middle of cafeteria, which you witnessed along with everyone else in the media contingent, you in-bounded me with concern and asked if my meeting went well.
How’d it go. Well, I hope
I offered you this:
I was gaslit so hard that I am choking on the fumes. He made laughable assertions as facts that I don’t cover the team well or enough or that I lack commitment. Like I am freeloading for a seat in the press box. And he insisted on doing it in the cafeteria so he could be in charge in front of everyone in the media. Zero emotional intelligence. All military, all bully, all the time. The whole thing is grossly offensive. And Dick nodded his head and tried to be polite. Honestly, I have too much to do building my business, taking care of my family and Luke (who is my employee) and dealing with 1K other things than to be fighting with a guy like Chad Steele, who is doing all he can do to make it miserable enough that perhaps someday soon I will just go away or he can safely dispose of me. I used to love the team. The love of my life, really. For 25 years. Built my world around it. I fought my ass off as a community leader to get an NFL team back in the 90s. I think you know this. I walked by Art’s picture in the lobby both ways. He would be appalled. Today was eyeopening.
But, on a better note, had a beautiful chat with photographer Phil who said you were pure magic today with the ladies and your command of the room. And I thought Eric and Joe did a great job explaining things. You guys are all teachers! Always at your best when you are teaching. LOL
Phil is a Wonderful man! I am very sorry you are dealing with this and wish there was Peace and not animosity in all this. It shouldn’t be this way. We should find a way to put it back together. I am going to work on it!
I feel unwelcome every time I come and today I was told that I need to come more frequently…or else! And that Steve is OK with my wife and I being thrown out of our seats in the front row. And a whole bunch of other false shit related to my coverage the past 2 years that I am still trying to process. I had a back procedure in October. I couldn’t move for 8 weeks and I am being threatened because I wasn’t “around” enough last fall. Or during the plague when he literally took my seat in the pressbox during the empty home games. Insane.
And whenever you and I get together again (and I was told to stay away from you…I think they believe I badger you for football info shit instead of asking your brother to helping a dying man in Michigan) I would really like to discuss the Las Vegas game last year and my perspective in being a traveling media member since 1984. You deserve to hear it and I think you will appreciate my side of it. In the meantime, go pick some good players!
For what it’s worth, I still haven’t ever spoken to you about the Las Vegas 2021 disgrace but it was the shittiest thing I’ve ever experienced as a media member in 39 years. Well, it was until I was thrown out after I brought it up to Chad Steele in April 2022 for what it was: unprofessional and below the bar for what you should be providing to the media and the fan base.
Your final text on April 5, 2022, in the aftermath of the Chad Steele sit down:
Well. Nobody decides for me who I talk with and who I don’t. So that’s out. Look forward to it. I hope it all gets mended.
I must say I was shocked when I unexpectedly heard from you on May 27, 2022, an hour after I tweeted this:
As I was sitting in Nick’s Seafood in Timonium prepping to do the Maryland Crab Cake Tour in a violent thunderstorm, you screenshot my tweet and randomly inbound texted me two words:
And I texted you back:
“I know I am.” And then I asked when we were finally going to connect for our usual off season chat.
We tried seven times to connect last May and June and into July. You were mourning the loss of Ingrid’s father and I wanted to give you as much space as you needed.
We never connected.
On July 26, 2020, I was told by Chad Steele via a brief terse phone call that I would no longer be recognized as a legitimate Baltimore media member by the Ravens franchise after 26 years of covering the team professionally. I immediately wrote to you and Eric DeCosta with the same message:
My media credentials have been denied by Chad Steele. I have been thrown out of the media after doing this my whole life. I am assuming you know this and have checked off on it. It is disgraceful after 27 years. Unfair. Disrespectful and damaging to my core business but more to my purple soul. My wife and I have been thrown out of our seats. And now, I have been thrown out of your building and told who will and won’t cover the team for my company. I thought everyone in your organization and Steve (especially) were better than this. It is not right.
John, you wrote back to me with a whole new tune that afternoon. Like a new man:
He told me about it yesterday. They don’t ask me what I think about anything like that. That’s Chad Steve and Sashi. My opinion wasn’t sought. I know bits and pieces of it. By everyone if that’s a shot at me then ok. Always respected you and will continue to
I immediately responded to you:
You can’t truly respect me and have a role in throwing me out of your press conferences with a PR bouncer who is acting unprofessionally. I was told today by the Baltimore Ravens that I am no longer a “real” media member. It’s an unspeakable hit on me personally, professionally and my business. I have thousands of dollars of flights booked to cover your road games. Do you notice how few Baltimore media CARE enough to travel with the team? I do. When Ted coached there were 25. Now there are 3 most games. This isn’t hard. This is very personal to me and I have been singled out after a lifetime of commitment and professionalism. It is not right
Well I know who I respect and who I don’t. And I don’t tell people I respect them if I don’t. If you think I have the authority to make the decision you’re talking about you’re wrong. Chad doesn’t work for me. That the bottom line. I’m not happy at all you’re not covering the team. Neither do i know all the details. If you want to hold me responsible then that is your choice.
Sashi Brown’s first words to me: “I won’t be talking to you very much.” David Modell would’ve fired him on the spot. Period. Arrogance isn’t attractive. And it’s not what built the Castle. Steve knows this. I have done nothing wrong. I have done my job and done it well. And I will still do it well. I prayed and worked my ass off to get a team for our city. My wife is soooooo pissed off right now that you can’t imagine. You know when she was dying both times her measurement was when she’d get back to a Ravens game. She rode the bus 14 hours both ways to NOLA to give Ravens fans a good experience. She yells her face off in the front row of the upper deck every game. And we have been hacked out of our lifelong tickets cheering for your football team and flying all over the continent to cover the team for your fans. A legitimate small, local business. Changes my entire life and business and how I feed my family. On one unprofessional decision after 27 years from a PR man who thinks he is a bouncer.
John, all of this stands in direct opposition of all of the Christian values and Hall of Fame leadership that you have spoken of over all of these years. And the very same ones that I wrote a book about a decade ago to polish your purple star. I believed in you, man. You’ve told me you loved me every time you’ve seen me for almost as long as I’ve known you and earned your respect, trust and time.
My favorite passage in Chapter 1 is the part where you say: “Real men don’t hold grudges.” I believed you meant that. (Make sure you walk down the hall and tell Chad Steele that in regard to whatever nonsense he believes I said about his sister that is the root of all of this.)
Let’s recap your messaging to me (all of it silent to my audience of more than 100,000 people while “we” tried to “fix” things while I was actively being intimidated behind the scenes by Chad Steele):
March 2020 – You informed me that you spoke with Chad and he should be more cooperative moving forward.
March 2022 – You were praying for a resolution and willing to help in any way you could.
April 2022 – You were very sorry I was dealing with it and wishing for peace and no more animosity. You told me it shouldn’t be this way. You told me that “we” should find a way to put it back together and that you were going to work on it! You hoped for it all to get mended.
May 2022 – Without provocation, you texted me as a media member confirming that I was correct in writing that your absent-from-Owings Mills former MVP quarterback should be on campus and leading his team instead of tweeting bile toward Chris Simms on Twitter.
July 2022 – You’re not in charge of anything like that and they don’t ask what you think and your opinion wasn’t sought. Call Chad and Sashi. And if I think the head coach of an NFL franchise would have any part – or power – in throwing a lifelong, legitimate media member out of the building without cause, then I am wrong. And that you’re “unhappy” that I’m not covering the team. (But unwilling and completely unable to walk down the hall and tell your bullying communications flack that this is not something you’re going to sign on for if you thought it was wrong. And it is.) And then you got passive aggressive, letting me know ahead of time that I couldn’t possibly hold you – a guy making $12 million a year who is the face and leader of the franchise and has been since 2008 – accountable for any of this malarkey. That would be really wrong of me and I should know better!
On the Wednesday of Jets week last September 7, 2022 – the first day of NFL season school – and my first day of being locked out of doing the job I had done since Art Modell brought the franchise into Parking Lot D – I wouldn’t be allowed to do my job for Ravens fans while all of my competitors and peers (including several that my blood and sweat had given a chance to be a sports media member with their first jobs and press credentials) would be welcomed with open arms by Chad Steele.
I wrote to you (and Eric DeCosta) with the text:
I will be turning the lights on today for everyone I’ve ever met as to how I have been treated by Chad Steele and the Baltimore Ravens organization in wrongfully rescinding my media credentials, disallowing me from doing my job after 27 years. Are you “on the record” or off as to supporting the fact that I am a legitimate reporter? I am not going away. Never. And I am getting angrier by the day at the treatment I’ve been afforded. The world is about to find out a lot of truths. So will you when you read it. You know what has been done to me is wrong. Where are you going to stand? I am finalizing my words and clearly you are involved in the plot.
As I am getting prepared for our morning team meeting, what I can honestly to you is 1. Yes I consider you a legitimate reporter and sports personality. 2. I’ve appreciated our relationship over the years. And have enjoyed the conversations and events. 3. I’ve respected your questions regarding the team. 4. I am not taking a side against the team or you because I don’t know for sure the details and it’s not a decision that I have influence over. 5. I am sorry you have had this drama in your life for you and your family. That is not what I want for you at all and it’s not good for the organization either.
I hope and pray for a resolution and things go well, healthy and prosperously for you and Jennifer!
John, you run the place. If you didn’t stand for it, you’d stand against it. I’ve seen your jaw. If you truly thought it wasn’t good for the organization, you wouldn’t stand for it.
I think everyone saw the “side-eye” by you (and Eric DeCosta) for Chad Steele at that April Liar’s Luncheon sham when he abruptly told the whole world in real time about his communication style, interrupting a press conference question with “real” media members and insisted on no questioning for you or the general manager – the only leaders the franchise provides – about Lamar Jackson. It was the only story your fans cared about at the time. It was the biggest story in the sport, in the country, really.
Bush. League. Trash.
Bullying the entire media in front of the world. Castrating the questions and sullying the credibility of every reporter in the room, every journalist and media outlet in the city. A press conference where no questions are allowed about your quarterback? And you sat there and tolerated it and endorsed it. And I suppose “benefited” from it in the mind of Chad Steele but I’m not sure if you realize how far the credibility of all of you has slipped since the entire franchise was caught in a set of heinous lies regarding Ray Rice, his wife and the Atlantic City incident.
I asked Luke on the show: “So what happens if Zrebiec or Hensley or you asked Harbaugh or DeCosta about No. 8 anyway? Do they get chastised, spanked, warned, thrown out or exterminated like I was last summer?
So what’s the standard, John? How low is the bar?
And is that below it?
Threatening the access and banning legitimate lifelong media members for asking legitimate questions?
Like when your veins bulged out at me after that Minnesota game in my final season with a press credential where Lamar Jackson ran the ball 21 times and needed to play on Thursday night in Miami and I had the audacity to ask you – and him – about it after the game? Or when you called me on my mobile phone in the middle of the day when I was in Las Vegas in June 2018 on a bus to the Stanley Cup Finals to yell at me about something benign that Luke Jones wrote on our website about you being a repeat offender, written up by the NFL and NFLPA for breaking silly spring practice rules? (I told you to call Luke. You did. “We” worked it out. Privately, not on the internet. We don’t hold grudges, right John?)
Or the part where you tell me you’re going to help me – and I believe you because you tell me you’re a man of God and a integrity-based leader of men – and then you wave to me privately from the inside to the outside while I’ve had my professional access taken away very publicly by the brand you front and lead. And then feign fealty to Chad Steele and your complete impotence of purple power?
Here’s the thing, John: I can’t “work out” you banning me privately. You did this to me publicly. It hasn’t gone well for me – or you – when people ask me what I’ve done wrong or when potential sponsors who help me feed my family wonder if I’ve broken rules or listeners believe that I don’t have credibility after doing this professionally and in good faith all of my life.
You’ve damaged me and disappointed me. Greatly. And your words ring hollow, especially to my family who has helped me build this business.
Hall of Fame coaches don’t ban media members – or stand for it. That’s for Bert Lahr on the yellow brick road. Are you really in charge or just pretending to be?
Or does Chad Steele really run the building these days? Or is that the ghost of Sashi Brown providing fake leadership?
And tell me how I can still have respect for this kind of irrational double talk, John?
I’ve talked to dozens of former head coaches, general managers and professional communication directors that I’ve collected over the 39 years of my lifetime of covering every sports leader of men I could find who is still alive over the last 12 months. I did the research as a professional journalist calling the men and women who’ve credentialed me and those I’ve reported on through five sports and a lifetime of doing this work and asked if there’s any chance any organization they’ve ever worked for could target and eliminate a tenured media member without the head coach being in on it.
All of them – not some, all – made a bitter-beer face and said that they never worked in an organization where any of that could ever happen. And some of them worked in some sleazy organizations and for some infamously cheap and/or eccentric owners. They all found it reprehensible and irresponsible. “Unthinkable” was the word several used. And four of them worked for Daniel Snyder. (Those guys were more familiar with this kind of behavior. Ditto the folks who have been involved with Peter G. Angelos.)
There’s a reason a guy like Kevin Byrne didn’t pull a stunt like this: because he is a lifelong professional and knows it’s wrong!
And every one of the coaches and executives I called from a lifetime of doing this work called absolute and total “bullshit” on your feigning ignorance or the lack of power to hold sway if you truly cared to do so and thought it significant enough or the right thing to do. And they told me I should call bullshit on you, too! A couple of them who really love me wanted your number to call you themselves!
Why do you think a lifelong Baltimore Ravens fan would come up to me – knowing we had a great professional relationship because they follow my work – and ask how this could ever happen with you as the head coach?
Because you are the leader of the franchise. You get whatever you want in that building – and anyone who’s ever worked there has told me that since 2008.
I was there when Brian Billick ran the place. I know lots of things. And I know how drastically it all changed the minute you arrived on the Owings Mills campus.
You are one of the most paranoid humans I’ve ever known well enough to say that I know you. I’ve always found it to be an odd and unnecessary world view but I’m not here to coach The Coach.
I am here to report truth. And the truth is nebulous only to those who don’t know better.
Like your owner, you can treat me like a chump privately because you have the wealth and insulation to do so. I’m not rich; but I’m not dumb. (Neither is anyone reading this.)
You can laughably pretend that you’re a lowly ham-and-egger with no power in Owings Mills – and that it’s not your department – and send me all the kind word flowers after attempting to stoke the funeral of my professional career but your fingerprints (if not your rubber stamp) are all over this decision. I’m extracted from having to ask you follow up questions to have you bristle and burr up and have your henchman threaten me.
But, I was always happy to look you in the eye and stand behind my words. That’s part of being a sportswriter and media member that your PR director doesn’t understand: the accountability of having to walk in the locker room on Wednesday after what you said on the radio or wrote in a column on Monday morning. I never had any problem with that. I’m a grown up. I’m a lifelong professional. I’ve been accountable since I had a pregnant girlfriend at 15 years old. I take responsibility, like a real man.
Chad Steele wouldn’t want to come on my radio show in my format as a “communications professional” and answer to why he threw me out. He would embarrass himself. I saw his weak ass act in the cafeteria that day. His bullshit barely made sense to him and he was making it up as he went along. I have, literally, had two conversations with him in two decades and he didn’t impress me in either one and they both involved him telling me what I should think and how I should do my job his way. (And strangely enough, telling me that I should be more like Mike Preston, which still simultaneously baffles and amuses me.)
Lousy, petty organizations stalk and exterminate legitimate local media members. Truly awful ones have everyone in the building in leadership know it’s wrong and endorse it anyway. And then hide.
There are no next steps or anyone for me to call. Your owner told me that we’re going to “agree to disagree.” That was his accountability after running from me in Palm Beach while entertaining three other out-of-town corporate media entities.
That is its own punchline.
I’m not agreeing to anything that has to do with the lies or tyranny of your franchise or its owner or your PR man in regard to my lifelong professional status as a Baltimore media member. Even you called me legitimate a year ago this week!
The NFL has been informed that I’m illegitimate by your franchise. Every NFL team in the league says I’m no longer a real media member. And everyone in your building is ducking responsibility and telling me to refer all calls and meetings to Chad Steele, who still refuses to issue a formal note in writing about my extermination and its “rationale.”
I can’t duck responsibility on the streets on Baltimore.
I am asked every day of my life the “why” part. And some days, I feel like I know everyone in this city. They all ask me.
“Why did the Ravens throw you out? WHAT DID YOU DO WRONG?!?”
And what should I tell them, John? That I made the grave mistake of trusting people like you, Eric DeCosta and Dick Cass with transparency and made every honest human effort to try to find peaceful, private, professional mediation as a 54-year old grown up with Chad Steele using your world-class “leadership” skills? And the fact that it was always the right thing to do – privately?
And the real fact and basis of being targeted and chased around to begin with as a legitimate media member is despicable.
I have dealt with all of this in silence. Except when I walk the streets or open my phone or my laptap and folks ask me questions or demean me because of what you’ve done as an organization.
I dealt with all of that “off the field” garbage for years without mentioning a word of it to anyone. And you still threw me out in an effort to de-legitimize me and keep me out of your press conferences, locker room and press box where I’ve worked my entire adult life.
Meanwhile, Luke Jones is still representing my company with high quality sports journalism and is the only one anointed to ask questions on behalf of the company I own. (Well, except on days when Chad Steele tells all of the reporters what questions they can and can’t ask.)
But today I’m writing to you to let you know that I’ve investigated my own professional extermination. It’s been nine months since I’ve been in a room to ask you a question, even though I have a few and my audience does, too.
Just the way your team drew up the play.
Enjoy the season. I’ll be watching. And please try to be kind to Deacon Jones while you still let him breathe in all of that air of purple excellence he reports on for our audience of more than 100,000 of your fans at WNST Baltimore Positive. He doesn’t deserve to be treated the way I was treated, that’s for sure. Like you, he is a man of God.
I’ll be here watching football on the television, cheering for my hometown to be happy. Your team has a lot of power in Baltimore to improve our community. I spent a lifetime and wrote two books confirming that rare and immense power. To whom much is given, much is expected.
I gave you all of me. I expected a lot more from you.
All of you.
I love football. I love this city. I know football and the history of Baltimore football. And I just wanted you to know that I also know the truth.
And the truth will still be here. Just like it’s always been here for you.
P.S. Please give Van Brooks a phone call sometime. You and I talked about a local charity you should be helping with your generosity and abundance. He’s the real deal.