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Thursday, May 10, 2007
Forcing Patriotism at Yankee Stadium

Thursday's New York Times reports that at Yankee Stadium, fans are not permitted to leave their seats when God Bless America is played during the Seventh Inning Stretch. Chains block the aisles and ushers face the crowd and order people to stop moving while the song is played. The story's lede captures it: "The most patriotic moments at Yankee Stadium can also be the most confining."

I will talk about what I think are the free speech problems here when I have a chance. For now, let me link to and endorse the comments from Deadspin: God Bless America is a bad song; it cannot hold a candle to America, the Beautiful (I am partial to the Ray Charles version myself); it has no place at the Seventh Inning Stretch; and I always to get to games early so I can remove my hat and sing the Star Spangled Banner before the game, so it is not that I simply dislike all patriotic symbolism and ritual.

More on this to come, I think.


Okay, WHOA. I hadn't heard that yet. I agree with you completely; it's an unfortunate bit of treacle, and as you note, we already have the Star-Spangled Banner (which I love, song and cereomony) at the beginning.

Plus, what if you have to go to the dang bathroom?? I'm kidding a bit but . . . not really. If they are really "locking" the aisles, isn't there a bit of tort potential here? Or at least creating a burden if people needed to leave in a hurry?

Blogger gorjus -- 5/11/2007 10:22 AM  

just to go a step further. i'm certainly not a torts whiz by any means, but a situation could arise where this might be false imprisonment...


1. intent to confine: check
2. act furthering that intent: check
3. confined against person's will: check
4. absence of reasonable means of escape: check

Blogger Adam W -- 5/11/2007 11:19 AM  

Good grief, AdamW!!!

Let's try this:
--> You can leave and return to your seat before and after the 7th-inning stretch.
--> You CHOOSE to go to the game.
--> By your definition, having to sit in a particular seat would be "[being] confined against person's will".

How about something far simpler:
==>> This seems to me to be a serious violation of the fire code, comparable to chaining and locking exits in a nightclub. THAT would be a legitimate argument.
(I wonder if blocking exits during the stretch also happens over at Shea Stadium, and/or during the National Anthem at any other sports facility in New York?)

Anonymous Anonymous -- 5/11/2007 11:45 AM  

How long has this been going on at Yankee Stadium? I went to a game a couple of years ago, and did not get locked into my seat.

Obviously, Carlos Delgado will never be a Yankee. He chose to sit out the song while he was a Blue Jay, but succumbed to management's requests that he stand for the song when he became a Met.

Blogger drose523 -- 5/11/2007 3:02 PM  

Good comments; a couple of responses.

1) According to The Times story, the Yankees hatched this plan after the 2001 season and implemented it starting in 2002. But someone told me it only is in the lower-level seats and not the cheap seats (to the extent there are cheap seats at that park).

2) I last was at Yankee Stadium in 2003, sitting in the lower-deck in right field and did not see this done. The reason I know this is because I leave during the Seventh Inning Stretch whenever GBA is going to be played. I do stay for Take Me Out to the Ballgame (and "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" at Camden Yards).

3) The Times story says the Mets do not do this, apparently because they never had (or perceived) a problem of people getting up and moving arond.

4) The chains are held by ushers/security guards and not fastened to anything, which eliminates any Fire Code violations. And likely any false imprisonment problems.

5) They will make exceptions for "emergencies," which I suppose takes care of having to go to the bathroom.

6)Anonymous: Why should I be forced to leave before or after the stretch, thus having to miss part of the game? The purpose of the Seventh Inning Stretch is to . . . stretch, so that I can be back in my seat when the game resumes. Plus, I keep score, so I hate to miss a pitch.

7) Relatedly, and as I will discuss in a future post about this: Why should I be forced to participate in this patriotic ceremony if I do not want to? I chose to go to the game so I could watch baseball, not to be forced to put on a display of my love of God and country. More on that later . . .

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 5/11/2007 9:30 PM  

Can they be considered a state actor with all the funding from the state these stadiums get?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 5/11/2007 11:59 PM  

I think Adam W has a point. Even thought the chains are not fastened to anything, fans have a strong tort claim as long as they physically believe they are not free to leave. I think the bigger problem with a false imprisonment action is that damages would be small.

Blogger Matthew -- 5/12/2007 7:44 PM  

"Forced" patriotism is a contradiction in terms. If it has to be forced it isn't patriotism.

Anonymous Peter -- 5/13/2007 11:09 PM  

Only a bunch of self-serious lawyers would actually ponder the legal ramifications of this Yankee policy. Give it a rest people. There is no state action here; there is no fire code violation (I don't know which argument is sillier). You can stay at your seat for the approx. 1-2 minutes that "God Bless America" is played. And if you don't like it feel free not to show up. Since when has "God Bless America" become an offensive song?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 5/14/2007 4:33 PM  


Is it surprising that, on a site called "Sports Law Blog," there would be a bunch of self-serious lawyers? :) But to your points:

If you read the original Times story, the fire code issue was serious enough that the Yankees explained it away and the Times reported on why there was no violation.

State action actually is a complicated issue and requires more analysis than I can get into here; I said I will leave that for a later post.

Finally, I never said GBA was an offensive song; I said it was a bad song. But a song does not have to be offensive for me to nevertheless wish to avoid having to stay at my seat and participate in its performance in a public and publicly owned venue.

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 5/14/2007 11:13 PM  

From a non-lawyer, yet avid sports fan -
I'm less concerned with the legal potential here and more concerned with the, perhaps a bit less concrete, freedom of choice. Shouldn't both Americans and non-American fans of baseball be able to display their patriotism (or lack thereof) as they choose? Locking down the aisles just seems a bit excessive to me.

Blogger Juana Summers -- 5/15/2007 5:10 PM  

I served four years on active duty as an infantry officer in the 25th Infantry Division during the first Gulf War. Having proverbially put my money where my mouth is, I consider myself a bit more patriotic than George Steinbrenner or most of the yahoos up at Yankee Stadium. But a baseball game is a baseball game -- not a political rally or a quasi-religious revival. And I for one don’t need remedial training in loyalty, especially when it comes as a heavy-handed dose of schmaltz.

In addition, I find the song not only bad from an aesthetic perspective, but offensive from a political standpoint vis-a-vis separation of church and state. I'm an atheist. I don't believe in god or gods, let alone the preposterous notion that if there was a god, that said deity would somehow favor one country over another.

Being forced to stand and listen to a jingoist jingle at a baseball game? Is this America in 2007? Seems more like Germany in '38.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 5/18/2007 4:00 PM  

Hey anon of 5/14, its always been an offensive song to me. Not everyone believes in God or gods. So, why is it at the ballgame in the first place? Can't the religous tyranny of the majority just leave me alone?

Blogger Joe -- 5/26/2007 1:59 AM  

I am agree with you in the current situation,i am also a lawyer and i deal in these areas Rechtsberatung
Anwalt fuer Arbeitsrecht
Rechtsanwaltof law.

Anonymous Rechtsanwalt -- 11/19/2008 7:56 AM  

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