It all started a few weeks ago, when the Oakland Fan Pledge guys reported that they had to take down their sign at a game. Was this a technicality at work, or the A’s putting the hammer on signs they don’t agree with? Since then, it appears that the takedowns have been more frequent. Sign makers are crying First Amendment violations, while defenders of the takedowns say that A’s games are private functions. Of course, they’re held in a publicly-funded venue, so there’s a gray area here*. This fans-with-signs vs. management battle has gone on for decades, and it has never failed to make management look bad. Let’s look at the A’s sign policy.
Banners and Signs:
Management reserves the right to remove any signs or banners at any time. Each sign and banner must comply with the guest code of conduct. Signs and banners may be displayed at games as long as:
• They do not obstruct the sight line of another guest
• They are not larger than 3′ tall x 6′ wide
• They are not in the field of play.
• They do not cover up any existing signage.
• They are not commercial in nature.
• They do not contain obscene or inflammatory language
• They are not paraded around the stadium.
Nothing in there explicitly discusses critiques of management, or even players. If the A’s are going to have a sign policy, they better stick to it and not go beyond their stated rules. Otherwise they’re asking for legal trouble. The backed down in 2010 after John Russo threatened to sue the A’s. Now that Russo has left the government he described as “morally corrupt” (on the way out, of course), is Barbara Parker or someone else going to step in? The only remotely sports-related opinion Parker has rendered so far has been about the City Council’s voting procedure with regards to JPA matters.
At the very least, OPD shouldn’t be helping with the takedowns. Leave Coliseum private security to do it. If someone in the legal field wants to take up the sign makers’ cause, let the chips fall where they may.
* Reason why I say the publicly-owned stadium principle is a gray area is because private isn’t always completely private, nor is public always completely public. AT&T Park is a privately owned and built stadium, yet it’s on public land. Does that make AT&T Park more or less suitable for similar protests?