Settlement in “Enforced Patriotism” Case Commenced by New Jersey Teens Against The Newark Bears

Dec 18, 2009

Another lawsuit involving a sports venue’s restriction of patrons’ conduct during the singing of “God Bless America,” Gadye v. Bases Loaded Group, LLC et al., has been settled. The suit, which captivated headlines and propelled three New Jersey high school students into a debate about “enforced patriotism” at sports venues, was settled for an undisclosed amount.
The lawsuit was commenced in September of 2009 and sought compensatory and punitive damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees as a result of the defendants’ alleged “tortious and intentional acts.” The settlement does not resolve lingering questions about whether a venue can implement a policy that restricts spectator movement during the singing of “God Bless America” or whether such “patriotic rituals” have a place at a sports venue, particularly one that is publicly owned or funded. However, it does highlight some of the pitfalls associated with enforcing such policies.
In their Complaint filed in the United States District Court of New Jersey, plaintiffs Bryce Gadye, Shaan Mohammed Khan and Nilkumar Patel and their guardians, alleged that the Newark Bears berated and then ejected them from Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium because they did not stand during “God Bless America.” The song was played during the seventh inning stretch. (1.) The lawsuit alleged that the Bases Loaded Group LLC (the “Newark Bears”) has a policy that requires patrons to stand during “God Bless America.” In fact, the plaintiffs alleged that patrons are instructed to rise and that they are invited to join in the singing of “God Bless America.” Defendant Thomas Cetnar, III, allegedly enforced this policy and ejected the teenagers because they remained seated. The plaintiffs claimed that they were unaware of the Newark Bears’ purported policy and that they were quiet and respectful throughout the baseball game. After an unsatisfactory meeting with the Newark Bears, the plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the Newark Bears instituted this policy in an effort to promote patriotism among those attending games. They alleged that their ejection from the baseball game violated their constitutional rights, federal and state public accommodation laws and New Jersey state laws against discrimination.
Attorney Ross M. Gadye of Millburn, New Jersey confirmed that the lawsuit settled for an undisclosed amount. Gadye, the attorney representing the plaintiffs and the father of plaintiff Bryce Gadye, declined to comment on the terms of the settlement. Since the lawsuit involves minors, United States District Court Judge Jose L. Linares must approve the terms of the settlement. Although it is unclear if it prompted the settlement, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss or for partial summary judgment last month.
An Irving Berlin song written during the First World War, “God Bless America” is no stranger to controversy in the context of sports venues. (2.) “God Bless America” became a fixture at baseball stadiums for a period of time after the terrorist attacks in 2001. Bradford Campeau-Laurion sued the New York Yankees and the City of New York (the “City”) in a recent federal lawsuit, contending that his rights were violated at a baseball game in 2008 when he left his seat to use the restroom during the playing of “God Bless America.” He was allegedly advised that he had to wait for the song to conclude before he could go to the restroom. When he protested, he claims that he was forcibly ejected from Yankee Stadium by a police officer. The New York Civil Liberties Union argued that the New York Yankees’ purported policy, when implemented by the City police officers, was tantamount to “enforced patriotism” and violated Mr. Campeau-Laurion’s constitutional rights. The City settled the case, without admitting any liability. Mr. Campeau-Laurion obtained $10,001 and the City paid $12,000 in legal fees to the New York Civil Liberties Union. However, the New York Yankees noted in settlement papers filed with the federal court that patrons at the team’s new stadium would be permitted to move freely when “God Bless America” is played.
Carla Varriale is a partner at Havkins, Rosenfeld, Ritzert and Varriale, LLP in New York. Her practice is focused on the representation of sports teams and venues. She is also on the faculty at Columbia University’s School of Continuing Education, where she teaches “Sports Law and Ethics.” Carla can be reached at
1. Defendant Bases Loaded leases the Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium from the Essex County Improvement Authority and Bases Loaded operates the stadium pursuant to the lease.
2. See Richard K. Hayes, “God Bless America, Land That I Love” at (last visited on December 16, 2009).


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