The Aberdeen Ironbirds, a Class-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, defended the Blue Lives Matter flag patch on the back of their jerseys on Wednesday. The team claimed that they aren’t a political statement, but a way to honor two sheriff’s deputies killed in February of 2016.

The statement comes after Twitter user @BaltiMurph posted an image of the patch placed above the number on an Ironbirds player’s uniform.

Ironbirds general manager Matt Slatus told the Baltimore Sun that the adornment pays tribute to two Harford County sheriff’s deputies, Patrick Dailey and Mark Logsdon, killed in line of duty at a restaurant on February 10, 2016. Slatus said it serves as “a note to [their] families and to those who protect us around the country.” The GM insisted that using the flag wasn’t political.

“We are not a political organization by any means,” he said. “We’re here to provide affordable family fun and entertainment to the Upper Chesapeake region. We’re here to develop baseball players and make sure that, most importantly, people come out to the ballpark and have a great time.

“This is not a political discussion, it’s not a political point. We continue to honor and recognize the memory of the two deputies who tragically – while trying to protect the region – lost their lives in Harford County.”

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This explanation ignores the other ways the Ironbirds have already more explicitly honored Dailey and Logsdon. The club retired the slain deputies’ badge numbers and placed them on a Wall of Fame alongside the numbers of Jackie Robinson and three members of the Ripken family (Cal Sr., Cal Jr. and Bill). A politically charged symbol is, at best, an obscured way of accomplishing what could otherwise be done by putting their initials or badge numbers in the same spot on Ironbird uniforms.

No matter how many times Slatus says that the flag isn’t political, the fact of the matter is that the patch represents a political statement. The thin blue line flag is the symbol of the disingenuous and racist Blue Lives Matter countermovement, created in an attempt to trivialize the Black Lives Matter movement. Blue Lives Matter purposely co-opts the message of those seeking an end to extrajudicial killings which disproportionately affect poorer citizens of color, and mocks it by treating the job of a cop as a racial identity. It’s funny how the symbol for the “police should be considered a race” movement somehow doesn’t fall under politics for Slatus and the Ironbirds.

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[Baltimore Sun]