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Ravens Discuss Respect In The Workplace


The NFL culture is changing.

Topics that were once considered off limits in the locker room have been brought to the forefront of conversation, as the league is looking to turn the pro football atmosphere into a more respectful work environment.

Every team is holding a discussion about respect in the workplace, and the Ravens concluded last week's mandatory minicamp with an hour-long team meeting on the topic.  Ravens Director of Player Development Harry Swayne led the meeting, which was attended by every player, coach, member of the front office and Owner Steve Bisciotti.

"The meeting went really well," Swayne said. "I thought it was great for the first time to have the whole team, the whole organization, talking about topics that are pretty tough to talk about."

The initiative to improve the locker room culture is part of the NFL's overall effort to ensure that another bullying situation like last year in Miami doesn't occur again. This is also a period of change in the league, as rookie Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to get drafted.

During the meeting, the Ravens discussed eliminating some of the derogatory language that is commonplace on the field or the locker room, and also welcoming an openly gay player onto the roster.

"We have a host of players who handled it just like Ravens," Swayne said. "I was very pleased."

Swayne has seen first-hand how the NFL has evolved during his time in the league.

He entered the NFL in 1987 and played for five teams during his 15-year career. He spent two seasons as a player for the Ravens – including the 2000 Super Bowl year – and re-joined the organization in 2008 as a member of the front office.

"When I came into the NFL, we couldn't have handled conversations like that. We really weren't ready for that," Swayne said. "The world was much different back then. The league was much different. It would have been embarrassing how we could have welcomed someone with an alternative lifestyle."

Swayne stressed that he believes the Ravens are well-equipped to address some of the difficult issues that were discussed during the meeting because of the leadership in the organization – in the locker room and on the business side.

Having Bisciotti present to take part and lead some of the discussion was also important for the team to see how he interacts with his players and how much pride he has in how the organization is run, Swayne said.

"I think for our players who hadn't met him or heard from him before, they got to see for the first time his commitment level to this company," Swayne said. "It means something to him. It is his baby."

As part of the meeting about respect, Swayne also encouraged players who are active on social media to help shape the public narrative about who the Ravens are, and how they handle difficult issues. He launched the hashtag #KeepItRaven, and suggested that players use that hashtag when tweeting about events or activities that signify what it means to be a Raven.

Players have already started using the hashtag.

Had a great team talk about several issues in the NFL both on and off the field. Led by Steve Bisciotti and Harry Swayne #KeepItRaven — Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) June 19, 2014

Great mini camp! Got that much better #KeepItRaven — Kyle Juszczyk (@JuiceCheck44) June 19, 2014

 "That's my idea to get us to remember some distinctive things about who we are," Swayne said. "There will always be some stories where we fail, and that will be splattered across the media. But we kind of need to get in front and be proactive about some of the good thing that we do. We do a lot of good things."

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