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.
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, was the victim of religious and political discrimination at a 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 have since 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.”
When Campeau-Laurion, the director of web production for a media company attempted to go to the restroom during the playing of the song, a cop blocked his path and told him he couldn't leave his seat while it was being played. Campeau-Laurion explained that he needed to use the restroom and attempted to walk past the officer who grabbed him by the arm and then, along with a second officer, forcibly ejected him from the stadium.