Yankees Settle ‘God Bless America’ Case, Won’t Restrict Spectators' Movements During Song

Share This:
Download:
Issues and Regions:

July 7, 2009 —  In a settlement approved by a federal judge, the New York Yankees have said they will not restrict spectators’ movements during the playing of "God Bless America" at the new Yankee Stadium.

The New York Civil Liberties Union had sued the Yankees and the NYPD on behalf of Bradford Campeau-Laurion, a Queens man who was ejected from the old Yankee Stadium by police officers last August after trying to use the restroom during "God Bless America." In a separate judgment, the City must pay $10,000 to Campeau-Laurion.

In a settlement approved by a federal judge, the New York Yankees have said they will not restrict spectators’ movements during the playing of "God Bless America" at the new Yankee Stadium.

The New York Civil Liberties Union had sued the Yankees and the NYPD on behalf of Bradford Campeau-Laurion, a Queens man who was ejected from the old Yankee Stadium by police officers last August after trying to use the restroom during "God Bless America." In a separate judgment, the City must pay $10,000 to Campeau-Laurion. Campeau-Laurion has pledged a portion of the judgment to be donated to the NYCLU to assist in the ongoing fight for civil liberties.

Under the settlement’s terms, the Yankees stipulated that the team has no policy restricting spectators’ movement during the patriotic song and has no intention of implementing such a policy at the new Yankee Stadium.

"This settlement ensures that the new Yankee Stadium will be a place for baseball, not compelled patriotism," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. "It is a victory for the freedom of expression – a core constitutional principle."

The lawsuit maintained that Campeau-Laurion, a 30-year-old baseball fan and resident of Astoria, was the victim of religious and political discrimination at an Aug. 26, 2008 game when police officers forcibly restrained and ejected him from Yankee Stadium after he tried to walk past an officer during the song, which is played during the seventh-inning stretch at all Yankees home games.

The Yankees began playing “God Bless America” during home games following 9/11, as did all Major League Baseball teams. While other teams stopped playing the song during every game, the Yankees continued the ritual. In an effort to promote patriotism, Yankee security officials and uniformed NYPD officers hired by the Yankees prevented fans from moving around Yankee Stadium when the song was played.

"Neither the Yankees nor the NYPD can force people to engage in acts of political loyalty," said Christopher Dunn, NYCLU associate legal director and lead counsel in the case. "As a result of our lawsuit, fans can now go to a ballgame at Yankee Stadium knowing they will not be subjected to NYPD-enforced patriotism."

Campeau-Laurion, the director of Web production for a media company, had quietly watched the Aug. 26 Yankees-Red Sox game with a friend, eating a bag of peanuts and drinking two beers. He decided to use the bathroom during the seventh-inning stretch – a period when fans routinely flock to the restrooms. An NYPD officer blocked his path, indicating he could not leave his seat during "God Bless America."

Campeau-Laurion explained that he needed to use the restroom and attempted to walk past the officer, who grabbed him by the arm before he took a step. A second officer assisted in restraining the baffled fan and forcibly marching him out of the stadium. The officers refused to ease their grip, even though Campeau-Laurion did not resist them.

"It’s a proud day for freedom to know that people can now enjoy America’s pastime at Yankee Stadium without being forced into acts of patriotism," Campeau-Laurion said.