A Victory For Freedom??

By Thom Weidlich
Updated: July 9, 2009

NEW YORK — The New York Yankees agreed not to restrict spectators’ movements during the playing of “God Bless America” at its new stadium to end a suit brought by a man who was thrown out last year for trying to use the restroom.

The stipulation that the Major League Baseball team has no such policy was signed July 1 by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in New York and entered into the case docket Wednesday. The City of New York will pay the plaintiff, Bradford Campeau-Laurion, $10,001 and $12,000 to his lawyers in legal fees and costs.

“This settlement ensures that the new Yankee Stadium will be a place for baseball, not compelled patriotism,”Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

The organization represented Campeau-Laurion, who sued April 15 saying he was ejected from the old Yankee Stadium in August because he tried leave his seat to go to the men’s room during “God Bless America.”

Campeau-Laurion also sued the city, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and the two police officers he said ejected him. The suit was also ended against them.

‘No Obligation To Pay’

In the stipulation, the Yankees agreed that they have no policy restricting people’s movements during the song and won’t implement such a policy.

“The New York Yankees have no obligation to pay any of the money,” Alice McGillon, a spokeswoman for the team, said in a phone interview today. “There is no policy change at the stadium. The policy remains as it always has been, that fans are free to move about during the playing of ‘God Bless America.’”

Paul Browne, a spokesman for the police department, and Connie Pankratz, a spokeswoman for the city’s law department, declined to comment.

Campeau-Laurion, a 30-year-old resident of Astoria, Queens, said he was stopped by an officer on his way to the restroom during the seventh-inning stretch and was thrown out of the stadium when he tried to keep walking.

The police disputed his account.

“The officers observed a male standing on his seat, cursing, using inappropriate language and acting in a disorderly manner while reeking of alcohol,” Browne said in an e-mailed statement when the suit was filed.

Campeau-Laurion said he was the victim of religious and political discrimination.

The Yankees began playing “God Bless America” midway through the seventh inning after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as did every other Major League Baseball team, according to the complaint.

The case is Campeau-Laurion v. Kelly, 09-cv-03790, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).