Following protests in Baltimore—some of which have turned violent—the city’s major league baseball team is making some fairly unprecedented decisions.
First, tonight’s home game—a relatively trivial, early-season matchup against the Chicago White Sox—was postponed until 2:05pm local time tomorrow (April 29). The unprecedented part: the game will be closed to the public.
And the Orioles’ next series, a three-game homestand against the Rays, will be moved to Tampa, Florida, where the Rays play, but the Orioles will technically remain the home team. That’s not much of a home field advantage.
Ostensibly this is all being done in the name of fan safety.
Last week, thousands of Baltimoreans began peacefully protesting the death of Freddie Gray, who was killed while in police custody on April 19. But a segment of the protests turned into riots, as police officers were attacked and buildings were burned. The violence eventually made its way to Camden Yards in downtown Baltimore, where the Orioles play:
This has apparently caused the Orioles and MLB to decide that the next game be played in front of an empty stadium. It’s happened a few times at other professional sporting events, for a variety of reasons—mostly in soccer—but it’s quite an unusual for a major American sporting event to bar fans from entry, and Quartz has found no other instance of it happening in Major League Baseball.
Yesterday, Orioles chief operating officer John Angelos penned a thoughtful defense of the protests, instead calling attention to the systemic problems that caused them. But social underpinnings notwithstanding, the Orioles have deemed it unsafe for fans to attend a game at Camden Yards. The White Sox matchup will be televised. It’ll make for a weird image on your TV set, though.
After tomorrow’s unusual home game and the series against the Rays in Tampa, the Orioles are scheduled to play in Baltimore next on May 11.