The Charleston RiverDogs, a minor-league baseball team in South Carolina and Class A affiliate of the New York Yankees, have removed an "OJ Trial Night" promotion that was slated for late May. The decision came in response to backlash the team received for announcing the promo, which was going to highlight both O.J. Simpson's 1995 murder trial and orange juice.
"After taking a step back and having further reflection on the overall message that was being conveyed, it was the responsible thing to do," team president Dave Echols told the Post and Courier.
The night, which was originally scheduled for May 26, was promoted as a "juicy spin" on the most famous trial of the 20th century. Based on the event description, that phrase was meant to be a pun with the joke being that fans would get asked questions about orange juice. This is how the evening was described:
The trial of the century gets a juicy new spin. We will finally receive the verdict that everyone has been waiting for … pulp or no pulp?.
Fans will act as our jury, voting with custom paddles to reach verdicts on various topics throughout the night. The eyes of the nation will be upon us. Fans will receive an "OJ Trial" shirt upon entering the stadium. If the shirt don't fit, you must … see if we have a different size.
Simpson, a former star NFL running back and occasional actor, was tried on two counts of murder for the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. He was acquitted of the criminal murder charges in October 1995. The "If the shirt don't fit, you must ..." bit of the promo refers to one of the more famous moments of the televised trial, when Johnnie Cochran, one of Simpson's lawyers, said "if the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit" during closing arguments. The phrase was in reference to a glove stained with the blood of both victims not fitting onto the hands of Simpson at his trial.
Echols had a different tone Tuesday when the topic about the event's sensitivity to the issue was questioned after the promo night was announcement.
"When you're brainstorming, there's a line you deem as one to cross or not cross," Echols said to the Post and Courier. "With this one, the topic being related to pulp and oranges, I think you kind of get where we're going with it."
The RiverDogs are no stranger to controversial promotional nights:
- In 2007, the team announced a Vasectomy Night for a Father's Day promotion, with one lucky fan winning a free vasectomy on behalf of the team. That was scrapped because of backlash.
- In 2010, there was "Go Back to Ohio" night, which included a costume contest for whoever could dress up as the best Ohio fan. The winner got a one way ticket to Columbus, Ohio, but the idea was also scrapped because of fear of alienating non-local fans.
- Last year, they were forced to assuage fears of people concerned for animal safety that the team was not going to launch hundreds of balloons in the air, which would have been dangerous for the local ecosystem.
Echols, however, believes that this is all part of the game of coming up with these ideas.
"We've had just as many failures as we've had successes," Echols told the Post and Courier. "That's what kind of gives us the willingness to try new things."