If you've been to a Yankee game since 2001, you're familiar with the Yankees policy about fans moving during the seventh-inning stretch. It's a major no-no, with ushers going so far as draping chains across the exits of sections, so that all fans remain in standing by their seats until "God Bless America' has stopped playing.
A fan who challenged that decree is suing the New York Police Department and the Yankees for kicking him out when he tried to use the bathroom just after the top of the seventh inning at a game last August. Bradford Campeau-Laurion alleges he was stopped by a police officer when he tried to leave his seat, and that when he tried to walk past the cop he had his arms pinned behind his back and was escorted from the stadium.
The Daily News failed to get a comment on the suit from the Yankees or the NYPD, but Bloomberg News got a statement from a Police Department spokesman.
“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,” Paul Browne, a spokesman for the Police Department, said in an e-mailed statement.
Whether either side is telling the truth, or if it lies in the middle, the story does make you think about the policy. It is the Yankees' stadium and they're welcome to do with it as they like, up to and including removing people who don't stay still during "God Bless America." The question should be what point they're trying to make with the practice?
Is it that the Yankees and their fans are more patriotic than everyone else? That's a pretty silly argument to get yourself involved in, especially when the patriotism is practiced because of coercion and not someone's own volition. Such patriotism runs counter to most of the notions of freedom and liberty that formented the idea of the United States, notions which get a celebration at every baseball game thanks to the playing of the National Anthem.
Again, it's their stadium, but the move smacks more of self-congratulation and artificial tradition than it does of a heartfelt salute to the country.
Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.