DENVER — Joe Flacco looms larger than life in Denver, and not just because he engineered the stunning upset of the Broncos in the playoffs that propelled the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl title.
The league's marketing campaign for next week's kickoff game features several large banners of Flacco fluttering from lamp posts on downtown streets — and a giant one several stories high that hangs at Sports Authority Field alongside a banner of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
That has drawn an angry public reaction from Broncos fans who have taken to Twitter and to the streets to vent their frustration. One local sportscaster used a Sharpie to draw a mustache on a Flacco poster hanging along Denver's 16th Street Mall, and covered another with tape.
Some fans have organized an online petition asking the league, which purchased the advertising space from the Downtown Denver Partnership, to remove the Flacco banners.
The Ravens visit Denver on Thursday for the NFL's regular-season opener. They're the first champion to open on the road since the Super Bowl team began hosting the league's Thursday night kickoff celebration 10 years ago.
Manning questioned the placement of the Flacco banner on the stadium, telling KOA 850 AM, the Broncos' radio affiliate in Denver, "It doesn't seem to make much sense that the Denver Broncos have to have an opposing player on their stadium."