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

By The Associated Press
09.13.06

LANSING, Mich. — Frustrated fans would have more freedom to express themselves in taxpayer-supported stadiums under legislation introduced by a Michigan lawmaker yesterday.

That includes fans carrying signs that criticize the home team.

The measure, HB 6466, is included in a sports fan "bill of rights" introduced by Republican state Rep. Leon Drolet of Macomb County's Macomb Township. Stadiums that get 20% or more of their funding from tax dollars could not confiscate signs unless they block other fans' view, contain profanity or pose a safety hazard.

The measure harkens back to last season at Ford Field, when angry Detroit Lions fans carried signs criticizing team president Matt Millen. Security personnel confiscated some 'Fire Millen' signs, although Ford Field officials also said some signs with pro-Lions messages have been confiscated for similar safety reasons.

"When taxpayers are paying to build these stadiums it is unbelievable that their basic rights of free speech and press would be squelched," Drolet said in a statement. "If stadiums want to prohibit such activity, they should not ask taxpayers to fund them."

Another bill, HB 6465, would prevent stadiums that receive public money from banning local news-media cameras or otherwise "unreasonably" restricting their access when that access is granted to network media.

HB 6467 is aimed at helping tailgaters supply their Sunday parties. The legislation would remove Michigan's prohibition on Sunday alcohol sales before noon, allowing the sales to begin at 7 a.m. instead.

Local governments could still pass and enforce their own laws to prevent Sunday morning alcohol sales.

A similar Sunday alcohol sales bill was introduced last year by Democratic state Sen. Gilda Jacobs of Huntington Woods. It has not advanced in the Senate.

To track the bills, see the Michigan Legislature's Web site.