Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A's Signs of the Times

Earlier this week, the A's Internet world was up in arms over a Tweet done by A's pitcher Brad Ziegler's.

"Do people really think that boycotting baseball games in Arizona is going to eventually lead to removal of the new immigration law? All it's going to do is hurt the D-backs. It's not much fun to play in front of an empty stadium in your home park. We're going through that when A's fans boycott our games because ownership has threatened to move the team. The lack of fans gives them all the more reason to seek other alternatives for a new home city. And the players get punished, having to play in an empty stadium for something that we have nothing to do with. You can make your opinions known in lots of ways, but ultimately, boycotting games affects the players more than the owners. Just remember, to most owners, having a baseball team is a hobby on the side. They all made their money elsewhere before buying the team. Sorry for the political rant. Just wish true fans would seek alternative ways of protesting other than boycotting games. Don’t punish US …"

While I understand Ziegler's frustration, blaming fans for the problem is the wrong answer. No one is "boycotting" A's games. Despite our frustrations with current team management, we here at BaseballOakland actively encourage more people to come to the Coliseum and enjoy our Oakland A's.

Fans have been expressing their frustration in other ways while still attending A's games. Take the case of dedicated A's fan Jorge Leon. He has never boycotted an A's game and he attends 40+ games a year. However, that hasn't stopped Leon from expressing his frustration in other ways. Bringing signs and banners to the stadium to protest the A's actions has been his way of protesting, yet it has him running afoul of A's management. Fortunately, the word has gotten out to not only the East Bay Express, but also Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle, and even the sports page of The New York Daily News.

While we understand that the A's can set their own policies about what is hung, removing signs that protest ownership shows a remarkably thin skin by A's owners. Why is it that signs that have taunted David Justice, Derek Jeter, the Red Sox and others were allowed, yet signs criticizing Lew Wolff are not? Lew Wolff pulls no punches in blaming the city and fans for his problems. Why can't fans be allowed to express their own frustrations? Limiting signs only shows how much the message is trying to be controlled and distorted by ownership. You would think that a professional organization like the A's would have better things to worry about then fans' signs.

1 comment:

Kyu said...

Oakland City Attorney Says A’s Sign Ban Is Illegal...

"Oakland City Attorney John Russo says the Oakland’s A’s decision to ban signs that criticize team co-owner Lew Wolff is unconstitutional, because it infringes on the free speech rights of fans. Russo made the statement in a letter to Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts, warning him that police officers should not help A’s security eject fans that bring in hand-made signs critical of Wolff. Russo was referring to the A’s decision to eject A’s fan Jorge Leon from the coliseum for his signs — one of which read: “Lew Wolff hates Oakland.” The other stated “Lew Wolff lied, he never tried.”

In his letter to Batts, Russo explained that other professional sports teams and stadium owners have lost legal cases over similar bans, including the Cincinnati Reds and RFK Stadium in Washington DC. Courts have ruled that sports teams and stadium owners must have a compelling reason to infringe on fans’ free speech rights, and Russo told Batts that the A’s stated reason that they ban signs they believe are in “bad taste” will not pass legal muster:

“We believe the A’s do have a compelling interest in restricting signs that incite violence or imminent lawless action, make a true threat of harm, contain obscenity, or could otherwise cause harm to the public. In this case, criticizing team ownership did none of these things. The sign said, ‘Lew Wolff hates Oakland.’ Whether or not Mr. Wolff hates Oakland is not relevant. Either way, the A’s may not prohibit fans from speaking their minds about his ownership of the team.”

Russo also told Batts that Oakland police and the city could be held legally liable if they assist the A’s in enforcing their unconstitutional ban. OPD apparently helped A’s security eject Leon earlier this month."

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