April 15, 2009 / 7:34 PM / 10 years ago

Yankees force "God Bless America" on fans: lawsuit

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A man ejected from Yankee Stadium during the playing of a patriotic song has sued the baseball team and New York City, saying his civil rights were violated when police barred him from going to the bathroom.

The lawsuit says a New York City police officer told the man, Bradford Campeau-Laurion, not to leave his seat section during “God Bless America,” which the Yankees play over loudspeakers during a break in the game.

One officer put up his hands and indicated he could not leave, according to the lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday.

When Campeau-Laurion told the officer he was not concerned with the song, the officer grabbed his arm and forced it behind his back, and with the help of another officer he was marched out of stadium, the suit says.

“One of the officers concluded the encounter with the statement that if Mr. Campeau-Laurion didn’t like this country, he should get out of ‘it’,” the lawsuit says.

The incident took place on August 26 last year during a game between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

The suit seeks compensatory damages and a ruling that stops the Yankees from requiring people to participate in religious or political activities.

A spokesman for the Yankees had no immediate comment.

“Forcing people to participate in an act of patriotism really devalues the freedom our country fought for in the first place,” Campeau-Laurion said in a statement released by the civil liberties group.

Police say the resident of Queens, New York, was being unruly.

“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,” police spokesman Paul Browne said in an e-mail.

Many Major League Baseball teams began playing “God Bless America” following the September 11 attacks.

Some teams have stopped or only play the song on Sundays. But the Yankees have continued to play a recording sung by the late Kate Smith most games during the “seventh-inning stretch,” when fans stand to stretch their legs.

Reporting by Christine Kearney; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Xavier Briand

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