Saturday night during a Washington Nationals home game against the San Diego Padres, multiple gunshots heard just outside the stadium sent fans and players running for cover.
The shooting, close enough to be heard on the game’s television broadcast, left at least three people injured, including one bystander who planned on attending the game. The game was officially postponed and finished the following day.
The complicating detail of this incident is that it was completely outside of the Nationals’ control – that is, police say the shooting appeared to take place between two cars on a public street, not within the ballpark. In light of this, we can only speak to our impression of how Nationals staff appeared to convey information relatively quickly while certain facts remain unknown.
Used All Communications Tools at Their Disposal
While there were a few minutes of brief chaos after the shots were heard, Nationals Park was quick to show a short message with bolded instructions for fans inside the stadium to follow.
Simultaneously, an announcement over the PA system gave the same instructions. Shortly after, the screen was updated as new information became available, and the Nationals used social media to direct fans towards exits in the stadium that were away from the scene.
Communicated to Ticket Holders Quickly
The same evening of the game, that Nationals tweeted a statement that the game had been postponed, reaffirming that the incident occurred outside of Nationals Park. The statement described how the game would be continued the next day and offered details around how ticketing will work for those who already purchased tickets to the regularly scheduled Sunday game. Sunday morning, the Nationals sent an email to ticket holders explaining that they will have a period where their ticket to Saturday’s game is eligible to be exchanged for any future 2021 regular-season event. While not necessarily going “above and beyond” with this gesture, they communicated quickly with minimal time for speculation to grow.
Took Advantage of Spontaneous Gestures of Good Will
In the initial minutes of confusion, some fans found themselves in the clubhouse near Nationals Manager Dave Martinez’s office, where he was also at the time. At one point, a security guard came in and asked if those in the clubhouse were family members, to which Martinez responded, “Yes they are family – they’re our fans.”
Following this moment, the Nationals’ ‘Thank You’ letter to fans and subsequent ‘Thank You’ posted on the jumbo-screen during Sunday’s game featured Martinez’s quote.
During a press conference Sunday morning, Martinez was quick to stand by Nationals Park security, saying that “inside this ballpark, I feel safer than ever.”
If we were to advise the Washington Nationals on how to communicate from this point, we might recommend they leave it at that.
From a practical operations perspective, the Nationals organization is limited in changes it can make to its security functions that would make the areas outside its jurisdiction safer. To the same point, excessively pointing out security measures that Nationals Park takes in order to make people feel more at ease would likely have the opposite effect. Taking extra steps to prove that people need not worry about their own safety might have them questioning it even more.
What the baseball team can control going forward, is continuing to take every opportunity to thank, support, and give back to its enthusiastic fanbase. Some fans will not feel comfortable attending games in the short term, and that must be understood and respected. For now, the Nationals can let the District and Mayor Muriel Bowser do the talking about security in the neighborhood and the larger issues raised by an uptick in the city’s gun violence.