Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tampa Bay Rays fan spent $30K on season tickets but not allowed to wear 'Yankees suck' t-shirt (purchased in Boston)

5/26/11, "Rays fan objects after T-shirt gets him ushered from Tropicana Field," St. Pete Times
  • "Melton Little loves the Rays, and he hates the Yankees.

He owns a T-shirt that captures these sentiments perfectly, especially when worn at Tropicana Field.

It is white with blue block letters, and it expresses fans' derision for the New York team in two simple words:


The T-shirt got Little tossed out of the Trop during a Rays-Yankees game on May 16.

The Rays won that game 6-5. But they were behind when an usher came up to Little, who was sitting with his two sons, ages 8 and 19. The usher asked Little to come with him.

Little left. The next day, he learned that a pamphlet given to fans mentions prohibited items.

Little, who spent $30,000 on seven seats this season, penned a letter to the Rays asking them to reconsider their policy. To him, the word is neither obscene, indecent or offensive.

With it, he included photocopies of the online Merriam Webster's library definitions of those words.

Obscene: disgusting to the senses, repulsive. Indecent: not decent; grossly improper or offensive. Offensive: making attack; aggressive.

"I cannot rationalize how the shirt fits into any of these definitions," he wrote in his letter. "Unless, I guess, of course, you are a Yankees fan."

The Rays received but have not replied to Little's letter. Rays spokesman Rick Vaughn declined to comment.

Little bought his shirt for $10 outside Boston's Fenway Park about a decade ago. Back then, those T-shirts were banned from Seattle's Safeco Field during a Yankees-Mariners series.

  • Boston wouldn't allow them, either.

Banning strongly worded T-shirtsis common in sports arenas all over the country, said Milwaukee lawyer Nick DeSiato, who wrote a law review article last year about free speech in stadiums.

Most ballparks are built with public dollars or owned by their respective cities, DeSiato noted, and Tropicana Field is both. But franchises control things like stadium entry and ticket sales, so

  • in a courtroom a ballpark is not considered a public space.

"This is an ACLU lawyer's dream," DeSiato said.

But Little, a lawyer who practices civil and family law, just wishes the Trop's policy was more clear.

He wonders: Who's really complaining? Dozens of people at the stadium complimented him on his shirt, and it's not uncommon to hear "Yankees suck" being

  • chanted throughout the stadium during those games.

And, Little said, there are much worse words out there.

"I teach my kids to say that instead of other four-letter words," he said."

  • -----------------------------------------
Caller to 1010AM radio in Tampa, big Rays fan, went to game last night, was told by stadium personnel he could not wear the t-shirt. The fan was quite upset, wondered if management even knew this policy was being perpetrated. Said the Rays are very family-oriented and want a kid-friendly atmosphere, hence frowning on controversial t-shirts. 1010 host Bobby Fenton empathized with the fan, who also noted the place was awash in Red Sox fans, huge cheers when Youkilis came to the plate, almost nothing when Evan Longoria came up. Fan would've liked to have more Rays' spirit with inclusion of t-shirt.
  • via Poynter.org/Romenesko. photo by Melton Little from St. Pete Times

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