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Football team wants no signs at bill signing

The Associated Press

Editor's note: Describing the matter as a misunderstanding, Green Bay Packers spokesman Lee Remmel said May 10 that spectators would be allowed to bring signs to the May 13 bill signing. But anyone with a sign will have access to the stands only and not the playing field, he said.

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay Packers fans will be welcome, as long as they leave any signs at home, when the governor signs a stadium-renovation bill at Lambeau Field on May 13, the team says.

But opponents of the proposed half-percent Brown County sales tax that would help pay for the $295 million project say they should be allowed to express their views at the public ceremony.

The bill to be signed by Gov. Tommy Thompson creates a stadium-district board with the power to levy the sales tax, assuming it passes a September referendum vote in Brown County.

"This is a stadium owned by the city of Green Bay," said Edith Valentine, treasurer of Citizens for Sensible Taxation, which opposes the sales tax. "This is denying free speech and our constitutional right to protest — trying illegally to affect the outcome of this referendum."

Valentine said she planned to meet today with the city attorney, the State Elections Board and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin about the Packers' effort to bar signs from the event.

The last paragraph of a Packers news release about the bill-signing quotes Jerry Parins, the Packers' corporate security officer, as asking that "as a courtesy to fans who want to see the ceremony unobstructed — as well as for safety reasons — no signs be brought into the stadium."

The team said personal cameras would be the only carry-ins permitted.

John Jones, vice president of administration for the team, said weather permitting, fans would be allowed on the field when Thompson signs the bill.

"It should be a wonderful family day," Jones said yesterday during an impromptu news conference at Packers headquarters.

"I think all of our fans will turn out," Jones said. "It's going to be a positive day."

Valentine said she didn't buy the arguments used by the team to justify a sign ban.

Lambeau Field abounds with homemade signs at the average Packers game without harming anyone's view or safety, she says.

"If we want to bring in signs saying 'No' to the referendum, we will," Valentine said. "If they think they can stop us when this is a public official signing a public law in a publicly owned stadium, they're just going to hang themselves."

During the brief news conference, Jones put a positive spin on every answer, including a question asking him to name the biggest "bump in the road" in the lobbying effort to pass the legislation.

"Our background is not in the political arena, it's in building a sports team," he said. "We found that if you work hard and try to do your best, they sense that."

The Packers contend they must have the stadium renovation and expansion to stay competitive in the National Football League.


Mich. bill aims to give sports fans more rights to cheer, jeer

Taxpayer-supported stadiums couldn't confiscate signs unless they block other fans' view, contain profanity or pose safety hazard. 09.13.06

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