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God Bless America Lawsuit: Fan Gets $10K After Alleged "Compelled Patriotism" at Yankees Game

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By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. on July 07, 2009 1:46 PM

Getting Kicked Out of Game Pays Off

A fan who claimed he got kicked out of Yankee stadium after he left his seat during the playing of "God Bless America", is getting himself a nice settlement check that may help offset any potential hefty Yankee ticket prices for a while. A settlement between plaintiff Bradford Campeau-Laurion and the city of New York and the Yankees provides that he'll receive about $10,000 from the city, while the New York Civil Liberties Union will get $12,000 in legal fees. Sounds like it must have been quite the boot he was given, right?

Well, before we get to what went down, one story provided some background on the playing of the song, as follows:

"'God Bless America,' written by Irving Berlin in 1918, was played at big league ballparks throughout the country when baseball resumed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It was discontinued in some cities the following seasons but remained a fixture at Yankees games, at which security personnel and ushers use chains to block off some exits while it's played."

OK, now on to what happened, Campeau-Laurion reportedly said he got up for a potty break while "God Bless America" was playing and the following occurred:

When he tried to leave his seat during the traditional singing of God Bless America, however, he says he was stopped by a NYPD officer who said he'd have to wait until the song was done.

"I then said to him, 'I don't care about God Bless America. I just need to use the bathroom.' As soon as I said that, he immediately pinned my arm behind my back," Campeau-Laurion told CBS 2.

The 29-year-old says two officers pinned both of his arms behind his back and ejected him from the stadium.

"He shoved me out the front gate and told me get out of their country if I didn't like it," he said.

Back at the time, police saw the matter differently:

"The officers observed a male standing on his seat, cursing, using inappropriate language and acting in a disorderly manner while reeking of alcohol, and decided to eject him rather than subject others to his offensive behavior.

Regardless, Campeau-Laurion sued the city and the Yankees, and at the time the associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Christopher Dunn, claimed that forcing "fans to remain in the stands for the playing of the song" was a "troubling example of compelled patriotism", and that there were "many other people who have expressed concern about the policy."

At some point along the line, the city's position on showing Campeau-Laurion the front gate appears to have changed to the tune of oh, about, $10,000. Still, there is no admission of liability in the settlement, and from a Stipulation and Order it appears that the Yankees are claiming that any restrictions on fan movement during the game apply not only during the playing of "God Bless America", but also during the rest of the game too. It may be interesting to see if or how enforcement of any restrictions changes in the future, and whether any future challenges to alleged "compelled patriotism" arise.

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