TIME Baseball

Inside an Empty Camden Yards

The Baltimore Orioles kept fans out of Wednesday's game in the wake of Monday's violence around the city

Ah, the sounds of Baltimore Orioles baseball, on a day where there were no fannies in the seats. Pop, echoing throughout the empty stadium, when the ball hit the catcher’s mitt. Thwack, bat on ball, especially during Baltimore’s first inning, when the Orioles took a 6-0 over the Chicago White Sox. (Silent sluggers, these guys). And plunk, as foul balls bounced off the seats with no fans. (Who’s on foul ball cleanup duty?)

This eerie game—official paid attendance, zero—went off as advertised on Wednesday, and it was as surreal as everyone expected. As a public safety caution in the wake of the violence that erupted Monday—following the April 19 death of a 25-year-old black man, Freddie Gray, who sustained a fatal injury while in police custody—the Orioles decided to keep fans out of Camden Yards. (Protests, mostly peaceful, continued into Wednesday evening. Hundreds walked through the streets, and a crowd was present at City Hall.)

Still, the national anthem played, a public address announcer spoke to a few members of the public, and the organ hit the notes of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch. John Denver’s “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” also blared over the loudspeaker. Outside the home plate entrance, a security guard acknowledged this was the easiest gig she’s ever had, as only a few media members strolled by.

Baltimore won, 8-2, in brisk two hours and three minutes, to the delight of the players. “If you want to talk about the pace of play, we might have found a solution,” Baltimore pitcher Tommy Hunter joked in the locker room afterwards. “We might have found something today.”

For businesses around Camden Yards, the day wasn’t as blissful. “Look around,” says Mandy Goddard, a bartender at Pickles Pub, across the street from the ballpark. “It’s all news reporters. There are two actual customers.” A manager for the pub says business is down 90% from a regular game. The postponement of two Orioles games earlier this week, the empty game today and the move of a three-game home series—starting May 1—to Tampa is costing Goddard. She estimates that she makes $100 to $400 on game days. “In my tip bucket right now, there’s $8,” Goddard says. She doesn’t like the team’s approach to this week’s games, though she says she understands why the Orioles are being so cautious, given the flare-ups near a game last Saturday night.

As first pitch approached, and a few players stretched on the field, the speakers played the cheesy 80s song “Party All The Time.” Right before the first pitch, one of the few dozen fans who gathered behind a left center field gate, and on Hilton balconies overlooking the ballpark, yelled, “Hey, good luck,” for everyone to hear. Orioles first baseman Chris Davis called the silence “deafening,” though he got plenty used to it, as he smacked a long three-run home run to right in the bottom of the first. The ball landed on Eutaw Street, in front of the famous B&O Warehouse, just the 80th shot to travel such a long distance since the ballpark opened in 1992. Davis said the small signs of normalcy—the public address system and a batter’s individualized walkup music, sprinkles of crowd noise from beyond the gates—at least offered the veneer of a routine. Davis even stuck to his tradition of tossing balls into the stands after an inning, even though no invisible hands were there to catch them. “It’s just reaction, I thought it would be fun,” Davis says. “I gave some love to the fans in the upper deck.”

The spectators with actual flesh, outside the stadium, were able to see the obstructed action, and offer an occasional, and very audible, “Let’s Go Orioles” chant. Chris Petro, a sound engineer at a local rock club, decided to rent out room 567 at the Hilton, whose balcony offered at least a partial view of the action. He expected around 15 friends to rotate in and out during the day. One of them was a local funeral director, done for the day, who was drinking National Bohemian—”Natty Boh”—a beer with local roots. “Why not throw a party, with booze, beer and my dog?” says Petro, whose black lab, Sara Sue, lay on the living room floor. “It’s nothing without her.” The bill came to $260 for the room—plus an extra $50 for Sara Sue.

In the fifth inning, the few dozen fans had something more to cheer about. Manny Machado hit another Orioles home run, giving Baltimore an 8-2 lead. The crowd standing against the fence in left center couldn’t see the ball clear the wall, so they looked for clues. Here, they saw Machado’s start to trot, then raised their arms and yelled. The delayed reaction—no noise after a ball goes over a wall—freaked Machado out a bit. “It’s a weird feeling, running around the bases and no hearing anything,” he says. “That’s crazy, something that never happens. Never happens. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Hopefully, the quirks of this game won’t have to be repeated. The serious circumstances lingered. On the room 567 balcony, the mood turned serious when bartender Crystal Dunn reflected on the impact of the violent protests and citywide curfews. “It’s hurting everyone,” Dunn says. “And tourists are going to to afraid to come here. It’s going to have a rippling effect.”

During a news conference after the game, a young man who said he lived in a Baltimore neighborhood where tensions are high addressed Baltimore manager Buck Showalter. He asked Showalter his advice for the city’s young black people. “You hear people try to weigh in on things that they don’t really know anything about,” Showalter said. “I’ve never been black, OK? So I don’t know, I can’t put myself there … It’s a pet peeve of mine when somebody says, ‘Well, I know what they’re feeling. Why don’t they do this? Why doesn’t somebody do that?’ You have never been black, OK, so slow down a little bit.” (Read Showalter’s full response here)

One fan standing in left center, Brendan Hurson, a federal public defender, carried a sign that read “Don’t Forget Freddie Gray,” with the o’s styled like the team’s logo. He disagrees with the team’s decision to play the game with no fans. “It shows fear, and it’s divisive,” Hurson says. To him, keeping fans out symbolized the current state of Baltimore. “So many young people are locked out of the life they want to lead,” Hurson says. “This is such a stark reminder.”

Read next: How Baltimore Police Lost Control in 90 Minutes

TIME Baseball

See the Orioles Playing in an Empty Stadium After Baltimore Riots

The Baltimore Orioles bat against the Chicago White Sox during a baseball game without fans on April 29, 2015, in Baltimore. Due to security concerns the game was closed to the public.
Gail Burton—AP The Baltimore Orioles bat against the Chicago White Sox during a baseball game without fans on April 29, 2015, in Baltimore. Due to security concerns the game was closed to the public.

The game was closed to the public

The Baltimore Orioles played to an empty stadium Wednesday after unrest in the city led the team to close the game to the public.

As previously reported, the team delayed the first two games in a series against the White Sox to a May 28 doubleheader, after closing the stadium during riots following the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody. Wednesday’s game went forward, but without any fans in the stands. Some tried to get a view of the game nevertheless, as reported by TIME senior writer Sean Gregory, who was on the scene:

TIME Boxing

See the Top 10 Boxing Matches of All Time

Before the much-anticipated fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, see TIME's selection of the greatest bouts of all time

On the morning of 17 April 1860, boxing’s inaugural “world title” match took place. Though the event was illegal, sporting historians accept that John C. Heenan vs Tom Sayers (U.S. vs England, in a Hampshire field) was the first of many thousands of “fights of the century.” Here’s TIME’s selection of the greatest matches.

TIME

This Ball Park Is Banning Peanuts for Allergy Awareness Night

Baseball fans will have to go without the popular snack for one night

What’s a baseball game without peanuts? Indianapolis is about to find out when America’s national pastime goes without its most iconic snack Wednesday at Victory Field as a part of Peanut Allergy Awareness Night.

“We’ve received calls from fans over the years about not being able to come to the ballpark due to peanut allergy,” Jon Glesing, the Indianpolis Indians’ senior marketing and communications manager, told the Indianapolis Star. “Awareness for this is far from new in baseball, [but] we’re finally at a point we can coordinate an awareness night.”

The game against the Louisville Bats is the Indians’ first night of its kind in a stadium that typically sells more than 30,000 peanut bags per season. Peanuts, cracker jack and peanut M&Ms will not be sold, and those sitting in lawn seating will be barred from bringing their own peanut snacks. But as the Indians themselves noted on their website, despite cleaning efforts, there may still be be peanut particles in the stadium.

“[The event] does not mean the ballpark will be completely peanut-free,” the team warned. “Fans with peanut allergies should exercise their normal precautions.”

[IndyStar]

TIME Boxing

These 3 Maps Show Where Mayweather and Pacquiao Have the Most Fans

Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Manny Pacquiao strike their pose after a news conference Wednesday, March 11, 2015, in Los Angeles. Mayweather and Pacquiao are scheduled to fight on May 2 in Las Vegas.
Ed Crisostomo—AP Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Manny Pacquiao strike their pose after a news conference. They are scheduled to box in the "Fight of the Century" in Las Vegas on May 2, 2015.

See Facebook's fandom maps ahead of Saturday's historic boxing match

If Saturday’s historic fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao were a Facebook popularity contest, then the 47-0 Mayweather might just stay undefeated.

Facebook unveiled a series maps Wednesday showing which countries’ Facebook users have “liked” each boxer’s official Facebook page the most, and most of the world’s countries are on team Mayweather. Meanwhile, Pacquiao’s biggest fan bases are in Southeast Asia and in parts of the Middle East, as shown in the map below:

FacebookEach country is color-coded on which boxer’s Facebook page has the most likes. Pacquiao is red, Mayweather is green.

Looking at Mayweather alone, the top three countries where the American boxer has the most Facebook “likes” are the U.S., Mexico and the U.K., as shown in the map below:

 Mayweather Fan Map
FacebookThis map displays Facebook fans of Floyd Mayweather. The darker the green, the higher the percentage users who like Mayweather’s official page.

The country where Pacquiao is the most popular by Facebook likes is also his home country, the Philippines, followed by the U.S. and Mexico:

FacebookThis map displays Facebook fans of Manny Pacquiao. The darker the green, the higher the percentage users who like Pacquiao’s official page.

Mayweather and Pacquiao are expected to enter the ring for their main-event fight Saturday at about 11 p.m. EDT at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. Here’s how to watch the “Fight of the Century,” including free pay-per-view.

Read next: 10 Observations from Floyd Mayweather’s Training Camp

TIME Basketball

WNBA’s Griner to Attend Domestic-Violence Counseling

WNBA Players Arrested Basketball
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office/AP WNBA players Brittney Griner, left, and her fiancée Glory Johnson

Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner must attend 26 weeks of domestic-violence counseling as part of a diversion agreement

(GOODYEAR, Ariz.) — Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner has entered into a diversion agreement after being arrested on suspicion of assault following a fight last week with her fiancee, fellow WNBA player Glory Johnson.

As part of the agreement reached Tuesday in Goodyear Municipal Court, Griner will plead guilty to disorderly conduct and must attend 26 weeks of domestic violence counseling. All charges will be dismissed if she completes her counseling.

”It is never OK for an argument to turn physical. This will never happen again, and I take my relationship and my responsibility as a role model seriously,” Griner said in a statement. ”I am committed to making positive changes and I plan to use what I have learned to set a good example and help make a difference in the world around me.”

Griner voluntarily began counseling the day after being arrested for the April 22 incident at the home she shares with Johnson, according to her attorney, David Michael Cantor.

Griner and Johnson, who plays for the Tulsa Shock, were both charged with assault by recklessly causing physical injuries and disorderly conduct after an argument at the home that the couple bought two days earlier turned physical.

The two 24-year-old players suffered minor injuries, including a bite mark on Griner’s finger, but neither required medical attention.

Griner told police the fight was caused be weeks of stress, including buying a house, planning a wedding and their relationship. The pair announced their engagement late last summer and expected to get married next month.

TIME Football

Why the NFL Suddenly Wants to Pay Taxes

Super Bowl XLIX - New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks
Rob Carr—Getty Images Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots intercepts a pass by Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks intended for Ricardo Lockette #83 late in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.

America's richest sports league relinquishes its non-profit status. How much will Uncle Sam benefit?

The NFL announced Tuesday that it’s voluntarily relinquishing its tax-exempt status. Here’s what you need to know about the move.

Why in the world would the NFL volunteer to pay taxes?

Basically, the economic value of the exemption wasn’t worth the political and PR headaches that it created. In a memo to the league’s teams and members of Congress, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called the tax-exemption a “distraction,” and said it has “been mischaracterized repeatedly in recent years.”

Is there truth to this?

Yes. Political threats to revoke the tax-exemption of pro sports organizations hold populist appeal. After all, how can commercial outfits that sell expensive tickets and generate millions of dollars for owners and players be considered non-profit organizations – and thus exempt from paying taxes? The NFL is no charity.

In 2013, Sen. Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma introduced legislation that would prohibit the NFL and other pro sports organizations with over $10 million in revenue from filing as non-profits. In the wake of the Ray Rice scandal last fall, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat, proposed similar legislation – and argued that taxes on these leagues could fund domestic violence programs. Last month, Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, House Oversight Committee Chairman, told Reuters that “the National Football League should have to pay taxes like everybody else.”

Politicians, however, largely fail to explain the scope of these tax-exemptions – which are much more limited than they may appear. The NFL’s teams, who see a bulk of the league’s $11 billion in revenue, are taxable entities. So the NFL does pay taxes. The league office is tax-exempt, but it generated just $9 million in income during the 2012 tax year.

So repealing the NFL’s tax exemption wouldn’t create the windfall politicians want you to expect. If it saved the NFL a ton of money, today’s voluntary relinquishing never would have happened. Recent political posturing exaggerated its value.

Why was the NFL office tax-exempt in the first place?

The NFL has historically filed as a 501 (c)(6) non-profit, which provides tax-exemptions for “business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade, and professional football leagues.” Er, how did football get written into the tax code?

This legislative quirk dates back to the 1966 NFL-AFL merger. “Professional football leagues” were added to the code that year to ensure that the merger could go forward “without fear of an anti-trust challenge under either the Clayton Antitrust Act or the Federal Trade Commissions Act,” and to ensure that “a professional football league’s exemption would not be jeopardized because it administered a players’ pension fund,” according to the Internal Revenue Service. In return for this favorable treatment of the merger by two Democratic lawmakers — Louisiana Senator Russell Long, chairman of the Finance Committee, and Louisiana representative Hale Boggs, House majority whip — New Orleans was awarded the NFL’s next expansion franchise.

Who’s the big winner here?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Remember him calling the exemption a distraction? Well, the largest distraction has been the required public disclosure of his enormous compensation — $44 million in 2012, and $35 million in 2013. When Goodell mishandles an issue like Ray Rice, his paycheck is inevitably thrown in his face. How can a guy making that much money screw up so badly? The commissioner’s pay is also a sore point during collective bargaining negotiations.

Without the tax exemption, the NFL is under no legal obligation to release its commissioner’s salary. Major League Baseball made a similar move in 2007, when it relinquished its tax exemption – and no longer had to disclose the pay of commissioner Bud Selig, which had exceeded $18 million.

Fundamentally, does this news change anything about the NFL?

Not really. Go ahead and return to obsessing over the draft – which starts Thursday night.

TIME Baseball

Baltimore Orioles to Play Game in Empty Stadium in Wake of Riots

Chicago White Sox v Baltimore Orioles
Greg Fiume—Getty Images An empty Oriole Park at Camden Yards is shown after the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox was postponed on April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.

The team has been postponing games in response to unrest in Baltimore

The Baltimore Orioles will play a game against the Chicago White Sox in an empty stadium on Wednesday, the team has announced.

Tuesday’s decision came in the wake of violent disorder in the city after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after being injured while in police custody.

The team had already postponed the first two games in the series, scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. The third game will be played as scheduled on Wednesday, but the stadium will be closed to the public. The first two games will be made up in a doubleheader on May 28.

Ongoing unrest also appears to be the cause of the team relocating a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays, originally scheduled to take place on their home field of Oriole Park on May 1 to 3, to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. Ticket holders to all six affected games will be able to exchange their plans for another date.

 

TIME Football

NFL Ending Tax-Exempt Status, Commissioner Tells Owners

Commissioner Roger Goodell says the change will not alter the function or operation of the league

(WASHINGTON) — The National Football League is giving up its tax-exempt status, which Commissioner Roger Goodell called a “distraction.”

In a letter to team owners, Goodell said that the league office and its management council will file tax returns as taxable entities for the 2015 fiscal year. Goodell said the NFL has been tax-exempt since 1942, though all 32 teams pay taxes on their income.

Goodell said the change will not alter the function or operation of the league, since all the teams already pay taxes.

“As you know, the effects of the tax-exempt status of the league office have been mischaracterized repeatedly in recent years,” Goodell said in the letter, dated Tuesday. “The fact is that the business of the NFL has never been tax exempt.”

Major League Baseball gave up its 501(c)(6) tax-exempt status in 2007, which eliminates the requirement for an annual filing of IRS Form 990, which is the publicly available tax return of a tax-exempt organization and requires the listing of compensation for the highest-paid employees.

The National Hockey League also has tax-exempt status, but the National Basketball Association does not.

Some members of Congress have criticized the NFL, which generates billions in revenue, for being tax-exempt.

“The owners have decided to eliminate the distraction associated with misunderstanding of the league office’s status, so the league office will in the future file returns as a taxable entity,” said Robert McNair, owner of the Houston Texans and chairman of the league’s finance committee.

Team owners gave the league’s finance committee and management council the authority to change the tax status at league meetings in March, Goodell said.

“As a result, the committees decided to eliminate this distraction,” Goodell wrote.

Goodell forwarded the owners letter to Reps. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sander Levin, D-Mich. Ryan chairs the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee and Levin is the ranking Democrat.

TIME Football

Projected NFL 1st-Round Draft Pick Shane Ray Cited For Marijuana Possession

Missouri defensive lineman Shane Ray (56) walks off the field after being ejected from the game for a late hit against Alabama quarterback Blake Sims during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Atlanta
Brynn Anderson—AP Missouri defensive lineman Shane Ray (56) walks off the field after being ejected from the game for a late hit against Alabama quarterback Blake Sims during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Atlanta

The standout defensive player will appear in court on June 30

Former Missouri Tiger football player Shane Ray, projected to be drafted in the early-mid first round of the 2015 NFL draft, was cited on Monday for possession of marijuana and a traffic violation.

According to ESPN, the pass rushing linebacker was pulled over for speeding on a Missouri highway and when the officer smelled fresh (unsmoked) marijuana he searched the vehicle — finding a “personal amount” in the car.

The officer said Ray was cooperative and did not appear impaired during the procedure. He was given a misdemeanor for having 35 grams or less of pot in his possession and was not detained. The maximum sentence for misdemeanor marijuana possession in Missouri is one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

He will appear in court on June 30.

Ray is also dealing with a toe injury and there is speculation that he may need to undergo surgery, but he told ESPN that he will “take it easy through rookie camp and continue to focus on rehab and healing.”

He started every game for Missouri last season and recorded 61 tackles and 14 sacks. The NFL draft starts on Thursday.

[ESPN]

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