Even Cassie Motz, the executive director of the CollegeBound Foundation, didn’t know what exactly might transpire on the sixth floor of the B&O Warehouse on Monday morning, where Orioles CEO John Angelos sat across from Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott.
When Angelos announced the Orioles would commit $5 million to the scholarship organization focused on supporting Baltimore public school students reach college, Motz cried. The commitment doubled CollegeBound’s operating budget, and while details haven’t yet been worked out as to how the Orioles will give that money — Motz said the sum would likely be spaced out over several years — it was a win off the field for a city that needs that sort of commitment.
Then, the press conference moved to the question-and-answer portion.
Reporters quickly asked about the issues looming over the Orioles franchise. There are so many unknowns about the behind-the-scenes workings of an organization that has its ownership mired in a lawsuit between brothers John and Louis Angelos (their mother, Georgia, is also suing Louis, saying he essentially stole the family law firm from their father, Peter), has yet to sign a new lease for Camden Yards and, despite repeated assurances, can’t escape the lingering specter that this city could lose another professional franchise (Louis asserts in court documents that John could opt to move the team.)
At first, John Angelos batted away the question with a fair amount of grace.
“With all due respect, I’m going to try not to talk too much between the lines today,” Angelos said. “I think Dr. King would appreciate that, if we talked about what was going on in the community a little bit more. The Orioles are going to be here for the long term. We have been here. And I’ve said many times publicly — unsolicited, unprompted — we’re never going anywhere.”
“Fear not, the Orioles will be here,” Angelos continued, before Scott hopped in.
“Baltimore knows what it feels like when a team is disinvesting and going to leave, right?” Scott said, referring to the Colts’ stealing away in the middle of the night to Indianapolis in March, 1984. “It happened 11 days before I was born, if you were counting. This isn’t that. The Orioles have continued to make deep investments in the community. There are many worries that I have. The Orioles are not one.”
Access to the Angelos family has been sparse, particularly as the lawsuit continues and John Angelos takes more firm control over the franchise. His father, Peter, collapsed from heart problems in 2017, and is suffering from advanced dementia, according to court documents.
The press conference called Monday, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, marked just one of a handful of occasions when John Angelos has been available to members of the media in the last four years — even as questions about the franchise swirled.
How does the internal power struggle in the family impact the Orioles? Does the family plan to keep the team after Peter dies? Why has a new lease not been signed, and what does the team plan to do with $600 million set aside by the state for upgrades to Camden Yards?
Many of these questions were never asked directly because Angelos took exception to discussing team business. “I’m going to take you a little bit to task on it, OK?” Angelos responded to a reporter from The Athletic who asked about the long-range plan for the franchise.
“With all due respect, that’s not an appropriate subject matter for this day,” Angelos stated. “This day is about young people who are attempting — and by the way, I’m going to answer your question, but that’s not appropriate. Martin Luther King — I explained earlier — a very esteemed professor once presented to a group in Baltimore City that I was a part of, and she said that only next to the state of Mississippi had there been more red-lining than there had been in Baltimore City. There’s a vicious, virulent amount of racism historically through this country, and part of what we’re trying to do here is change that.
“So it’s really not important. It’s really not important at all in the grand scheme of things to people that are clear-thinking and who mean well and have a perspective to, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while we’re talking about putting kids that don’t have a shot in hell of anything because of where they were born through college, to be talking about those kinds of things. So I’m going to object to that question today, in this forum, before the mayor of Baltimore and all these people. Do we understand each other? Do you understand my complaint?”
Angelos went on to describe questions about the team as “out of touch” with what “real world people face and what the real pillar and role of an organization like the Orioles and Ravens ought to be.” He also touted the team’s recent turnaround, calling it one of the most impressive in baseball history.
“I just think that we all ought to have a little perspective on what’s important in the world, and what’s important in the world is what we’re talking about,” Angelos said. “What you’re talking about, you can find any garden-variety, high-value sports team or involvement, you’re always going to have some controversy, but I’ve been very outspoken, I’m very transparent. In fact, I would invite you and all your colleagues next — not on Martin Luther King Day, you can come back in this building, you can meet me in this office. I’II take you down on the third floor, and I’II show you the financials of the Orioles. I’ll show you the governance of the Orioles. I’ll show you everything you want to know, and I’ll put all your questions. But today, on MLK Day, I’m not answering any of those questions.”
“I’m not going to entertain those questions on Martin Luther King Jr. Day,” Angelos concluded.
Well, there’s that.
CollegeBound, which has been in existence for 35 years, has transformed from advocating for students to go to college and now prioritizes helping those students graduate.
Conversations between Angelos and Scott lasted several months, as the two discussed different ways the Orioles could give back to Baltimore. Scott, who received a scholarship from CollegeBound to attend St. Mary’s College of Maryland, expounded on how the organization aided his family and friends to pursue their dreams.
CollegeBound doles out $4 million in college scholarships to Baltimore City Public Schools graduates each year, and 75% of the students in the program graduate from four-year colleges, Motz said. The foundation offers college advising to Baltimore students, including college fairs, tours and application fee waivers.
The $5 million commitment from the Orioles, Motz said, “is transformative.” It will impact thousands of students, she said, and help the foundation to “substantially grow” the number of students receiving academic grants.
“I always say, there are sports teams that are in cities and sports teams that are of cities, and the Orioles in the latter,” Scott said. “They are a part of Baltimore, and a deep part.”
Just don’t ask Angelos any details about it on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.