Orlando City to stop MLS match in 49th minute to honor all 49 victims

·Columnist
Orlando City to stop MLS match in 49th minute to honor all 49 victims

ORLANDO, Fla. – The first major sporting event here since the worst mass shooting in United States history will take place on Saturday with a first-of-its-kind tribute.

Orlando City SC announced Tuesday that its Major League Soccer match against the San Jose Earthquakes will be stopped in the 49th minute to honor each of the 49 people who lost their lives at the Pulse nightclub over the weekend. The club is calling it "a first for MLS."

"The teams, coaches and fans will be prepped in advance to essentially freeze the stadium as a whole," an Orlando City spokesperson told Yahoo Sports.

The spokersperson also said that the time of the tribute will change if any other lives are lost before Saturday.

Thousands gathered for a vigil on the lawn facing the downtown Dr. Phillips Center on Monday, a day after the shooting. City officials and religious figures made speeches in support of the city's LGBT and Hispanic population, both of which were attacked at the gay nightclub. The OneOrlando fund also was announced, designed "to raise and receive money to help those families most affected by the tragic events that unfolded on June 12, 2016 in our community." The first donor named was the Orlando Magic, who pledged $100,000.

Orlando City, in only its second MLS season, will match that donation, and it will also dedicate a section of Camping World Stadium to the victims on Saturday. And a memorial in the club's new stadium will include rainbow-colored seats in Section 12 for each victim.

It's unclear how the moment of silence during play will work, or when it will take place during the match. Emails to the MLS and Orlando City were not immediately returned. But the anticipated crowd is likely to be the largest gathering in the city since the shooting, and the club is urging fans to arrive early because of enhanced security measures.

The match will also be a way to show thanks to first responders and hospital workers who helped save lives throughout Sunday's tragedy. Orlando Health is the sponsor named on Orlando City's jerseys, and there will be a pregame celebration of emergency workers and support staff.

Other sports teams are also showing solidarity. The Tampa Bay Rays, only 90 miles down Interstate 4 in St. Petersburg, are offering $5 seats on Friday night and donating the proceeds to the Pulse Victims Fund.

But many around the world will be seeing images of the soccer match on Saturday, two days after the president's visit and six days after the tragedy that changed a city's history. No sporting event can lessen the pain of the victims' families or fix the problems that caused such drastic loss of life, but the day will be an important part of Orlando's forceful response to a horrid June morning.