Yankees respond to fan’s lawsuit over ‘compelled patriotism’

Posted June 12, 2009, at 10:11 p.m.

In an indication that this lawsuit isn’t going away, the Yankees responded publicly this week to a case filed last year by a reported Red Sox fan from Queens.

The fan is Bradford Campeau-Laurion, who last Aug. 26 was at a game in Yankee Stadium. He says he tried to leave his seat to go to the bathroom during the seventh-inning stretch.

That’s when the Yankees play Kate Smith’s version of God Bless America.

Campeau-Laurion says he was stopped by city police, hired as security guards by the Yankees, from going to the men’s room because the song was under way. Campeau-Laurion was ultimately thrown out of the park.

Campeau-Laurion has sued the Yankees claiming First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations of religious and political rights in what the ACLU, who represents him, says is a “troubling example of compelled patriotism.”

There are related reports that some exits were blocked by chains at Yankee Stadium during the playing of the song to keep fans in their seats until it was over. That is part of the forced patriotism charges in the suit.

In the ACLU case status report, they say Campeau-Laurion was grabbed by two officers and escorted out of the stadium when they stopped him from going to the men’s room.

When they stopped him Campeau-Laurion told the officers he “was not concerned about God Bless America.”

This week the Yankees attorney responded by saying “Plaintiff ignored the NYPD officer’s request, shouted expletives and initiated physical contact with the NYPD officer by pushing the officer’s hand out of the way and attempted to push past the NYPD officer.”

The NYPD has from the beginning said Campeau-Laurion was removed for unruly behavior, perhaps related to drinking.

Campeau-Laurion maintains that he was being quiet at the game and had only two beers.

Campeau-Laurion is not the first fan to complain about the continued playing of the song during the seventh-inning stretch that began after 9-11.

Many ballparks that were doing so have stopped the practice, reverting to Take Me Out to the Ball Game — or maybe Sweet Caroline.

For many, there is a sense of false patriotism and commercialism involved in the continued playing of this patriotic song during ballgames.

The attempt to connect baseball and patriotism is as old as the “baseball, apple pie and the flag” adage. The game has never minded the commercial benefits that flow from the fuzzy-feeling connection.

That connection is being questioned in this case.

The silence on the part of the Yankees since last fall would lead one to believe there were attempts to have the suit dismissed or settled.

The issuing of a statement this week by the Yankees indicates neither happened and there is more to come regarding this suit.

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