David Brown

Man sues Yankees over 'God Bless America' ejection

David Brown
Big League Stew

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If you recall a story about a man who got kicked out of Yankee Stadium last August for moving from his seat during the playing of "God Bless America," you also might recall saying the following to yourself: "Well, that sounds like a lawsuit."

Well, Nostradamus, your vision has come to pass.

Backed by New York State's Civil Liberties Union, Bradford Campeau-Laurion is suing the Yankees and the NYPD for throwing him out of the game. He claims to be a victim of political and religious discrimination.

Campeau-Laurion, a 30-year-old resident of Astoria in Queens, said he wanted to use the restroom and didn't feel like waiting for the Kate Smith standard to end. Fans are required to do as per Yankee Stadium rules. Shortly after getting up from his seat, his version of the story goes, security confronted him.

"I then said to [one], 'I don't care about God Bless America. I just need to use the bathroom,' " Campeau-Laurion told New York's CBS-TV affiliate last August. "As soon as I said that, he immediately pinned my arm behind my back." He soon was ejected.

A statement from Donna Lieberman, the state's executive director of the ACLU, said the Yankees and police used patriotism as cause to violate Campeau-Laurion's rights.

"New York's finest have no business arresting someone for trying to go to the bathroom at a politically incorrect moment," Lieberman said in a Bloomberg News story.

It wasn't an arrest, or even much of a detention. They kicked him out for violating a stadium rule — of which Campeau-Laurion says he wasn't aware — and for causing a disturbance. Paul Browne, a spokesman for the NYPD, says Campeau-Laurion's actions went beyond getting up to go to the bathroom.

"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," Browne said.

Campeau-Laurion painted a different picture of how he was sent home.

Here's video from last year.

"[One] shoved me out the front gate and told me get out of their country if I didn't like it," Campeau-Laurion said.

Ironic and ignorant, if true, considering the U.S. is just as much Campeau-Laurion's country as it is for the officers who tossed him.

All this over a song?

The Yankees started playing the iconic tune during the seventh inning in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks in 2001, a national horror that affected many New Yorkers in even greater fashion. The team added the rule by mid-October of that year, after some fans complained that others were failing to observe the moment with peace and quiet.

Campeau-Laurion says he doesn't mind that the Yankees play the song but to prevent people from walking to the bathroom while its performed — for a minute, for 30 seconds, even for 1 second — is extreme, even illegal.

How did it all really go down? Not sure, I wasn't there. It seems that Campeau-Laurion might have been picking a fight. Telling the cop he "didn't care about ‘God Bless America' " is a good way to get a guy's Irish up. For all he knows, the cop lost a colleague or more in the World Trade Center attacks.

But does anyone think it should be legal for a baseball team to force its fans to be still and quiet, unless it's an emergency? It's certainly not good policy.

Fans choosing to be still for "God Bless America" is patriotic.

But being forced to do it? Sounds more appropriate for a place like China.

When the lawsuit is resolved, or even before, here's hoping any activity during "God Bless America" becomes voluntary at Yankee Stadium. That's the American way.

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