The Baltimore Ravens announced a revised training camp autograph policy earlier this week and set off quite a firestorm in the process. The new policy states that players will sign autographs for only children (between 6 and 15 years old) and only after the morning practice session.
When I first heard of the change, I didn’t think much of it. I mean, it really should be about the kids right? Then I listened to some local sports talk and checked out some message boards and discovered that quite a few PSL holders were madder than wet hens about the change. Someone on The Sun’s Raven board went so far as to say that he would cancel his tickets and sell his PSL. I won’t hold my breath on that one. When you think rationally about the change, it makes sense for several reasons.
1. The Ravens are acknowledging that the adult autograph hounds were endangering the safety of children in the autograph area. I’ve witnessed the pushing and shoving at training camp first hand. As a father I would not feel safe taking my child into that environment. For a team as family friendly and PR savvy as the Ravens, the perceived danger was a major issue.
2. Better to act now before there’s a tragic incident that exposes the club to a costly lawsuit and a severe publicity hit.
3. The Ravens have one of the largest bases of female fans in the league. I imagine that the sight of grown men pushing past children to get to Joe Flacco caused more than a few ladies to call the front office to complain.
4. The Ravens are the current kings of Baltimore. If they feel this policy is the right thing to do then they’ll do it and deal with the backlash. Frankly, once camp starts this issue will be quickly swept away by stories of Anquan Boldin’s grasp of the offense, Sergio Kindle’s spot on the defense, and Shayne Graham’s morning success rate. Just win, baby. And for the one or two autograph zealots who really do cancel their season tickets due to the policy change, there’s plenty of people on the wait list who will gladly take their spot.