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Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Fan speech, once again

The ejection of a fan from the park (at the insistence of the umpire) from Atlanta's Turner Field, apparently for profanely heckling an opposing player, could raise some First Amendment problems. The park is apparently owned by the Atlanta Fulton County Recreational Authority, a public entity, and leased to the Braves (no doubt on very favorable terms). Just like in the one case to directly address free speech at a publicly owned ballpark, involving old Yankee Stadium, which was owned by New York City and leased to the team. And as I have written previously, if "Fuck the Draft" is ok in a courthouse, then "You fucking suck" is ok at a publicly owned or operated ballpark. And it does not matter whether the order to remove the fan came from team officials or the umpire.

I hope a lawsuit is coming.


A ball park and its employees are contractually obligated to adhere to the rules of the game, including an umpiring crew's authority. Umpires have express authority under the rules of baseball to remove fans who are disrupting or otherwise negatively affecting the game. Therefore, it seems like a stretch to categorize the ball park employees who are following the orders of the umpire under his exclusive purview as state agents.

Anonymous (Notorious) BO'D -- 9/17/2014 7:07 PM  

Do you really hope a lawsuit is coming to protect this type of conduct at sporting events? I believe this fan's language is inappropriate; do you think it is appropriate?

Blogger Tony Mustam -- 9/18/2014 12:37 PM  

I think it's inappropriate, but constitutionally protected.

The First Amendment kind of trumps the rules of baseball (even the Infield Fly Rule) and an umpire's authority under those rules. If the First Amendment protects fan speech, then a fan cannot be removed for his speech, even when the order to remove came from the umpire.

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 9/20/2014 12:17 AM  

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