When the Dodgers, Lakers and Clippers postponed their games because of the Rodney King riots
Until the curfew was lifted, no night events were held in Los Angeles
Four Los Angeles officers beat Rodney King to a bloody pulp after he led them on a high-speed chase on March 3, 1991. Even after King was subdued, the four white officers took turns delivering blows to his body.
Even though black people historically have had reason to believe the justice system does not come through for them, this incident felt different because it was caught on video. How could anyone deny what was right in front of their eyes? There was a sense that these officers would be held accountable.
But on April 29, 1992, a jury acquitted three of the officers and failed to reach a decision on the fourth. In the aftermath of the verdict, riots swept through the city. In the days to come, the Los Angeles Clippers’ playoff game against the Utah Jazz at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, the second game in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Dodger Stadium and the playoff game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers slated for the Forum were all postponed.
Lakers guard Byron Scott said: “There’s a very serious situation going on outside. We don’t want anything like this to happen. A lot of innocent people are going to be hurt. That doesn’t make any sense.”
“It would be politically and morally incorrect to hold a baseball game within minutes of where there are shootings and stabbings and burned-out buildings and looting,” Dodgers pitcher Bob Ojeda told Newsday. “It is the right decision at a time of great embarrassment for this city.”
Originally, the Clippers rescheduled the postponed game for May 2. The Dodgers didn’t immediately announce a makeup date for their game against Philadelphia, although it was later rescheduled in July.
Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley imposed a citywide curfew and the California National Guard and the Los Angeles Fire Department took over the Dodger Stadium parking lot as an emergency staging area. Curfews were also set in nearby cities such as Inglewood, where the Forum and horse racing track in Hollywood Park were located. Until the curfew was lifted, no night events were to be held in the city.
During the first game of the Dodgers-Phillies series, the players and people in the stadium could see the smoke from the stadium. But the extent of how bad things were was not evident until the stadium announcer made everyone aware. When the players went into their respective locker rooms and saw what was happening on TV, there was nothing but shock.
“We were aware of what was happening, but not to the extent of exactly what was happening until they made the announcement,” Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda told Newsday. “Then we met with the stadium operations director to find out what freeways were closed and where to go to get out of here.” The Dodgers security team escorted the buses that took the Phillies back to their hotels.
“I don’t want to go there,” Expos second baseman Delino DeShields said. “There’s no need for us to go there when things are crazy. It’d be better off for everybody, not just us. This game isn’t very important. That stuff is a lot more important than a baseball game.”
By May 1, the Dodgers were scheduled for a three-game series against the Montreal Expos at Dodger Stadium, but Expos players had no interest in going to Los Angeles.
Eventually, the Dodgers would make up the games by playing four doubleheaders in six days, with three of the doubleheaders being played consecutively, during a July homestead.
The Clippers played Game 4 on May 3 at the Anaheim Convention Center, while the Lakers shifted their Game 4 to Las Vegas.