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NY baseball fan settles 'God Bless America' suit

07/07/2009 2:46 PM ET
By YESNetwork.com
NEW YORK (AP) - A baseball fan has settled a lawsuit that claimed he was kicked out of Yankee Stadium by a police officer because he left his seat to use the bathroom during the playing of "God Bless America."

Bradford Campeau-Laurion had named the Yankees and New York City in his federal lawsuit, which argued that he was a victim of political and religious discrimination and that his rights were violated at the August 2008 game.

The city did not admit liability in the settlement, which was finalized Monday. But it will give the Queens resident $10,001 and will pay $12,000 in legal fees to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

For its part, the Yankees will pay nothing but said in settlement papers that fans at the team's new stadium are allowed to move freely during the song and there are no plans to change that.

"Policy remains as it always has been: Fans are free to move about during the playing of 'God Bless America,"' said Alice McGillion, spokeswoman for the Yankees.

But fans may not always have felt completely unfettered. Ushers used handheld chains to block off some exits while it was played at the Yankees' old stadium, although chief operating officer Lonn Trost has said they were instructed to let through spectators with emergencies.

In May 2007, Trost told The New York Times that the practice was inspired by complaints of fans who were upset that spectators were not respectful enough during the playing of "God Bless America."

The song, written by Irving Berlin in 1918, was played at big league ballparks throughout the country when baseball resumed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It was discontinued in some cities the following seasons but remained a fixture at Yankees games.

"This settlement ensures that the new Yankee Stadium will be a place for baseball, not compelled patriotism," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. The city Law Department had no comment.

Police spokesman Paul J. Browne earlier claimed the on-duty officers ejected Campeau-Laurion because he was drunk and disorderly. But the Red Sox fan said he had two beers, an hour apart, and enjoyed the game quietly.

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