Commentary: Feel free to speak your mind, just not here

The Miami Marlins’ baseball club, a member of Major League Baseball’s National League, has spent the last year doing its best to alienate the fanbase of South Florida.
In that span of time, the Marlins have opened a billion dollar stadium paid for largely with taxpayer money. In addition to that, the Marlins conducted a fire-sale of their players, highlighted by a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays that sent the Marlins’ best pitcher and infielder to Canada with prospects sent by the Blue Jays in return.
Then the Marlins lost their home opener at Marlins Park, 2-0, to the Atlanta Braves on April 8 before a less-than-capacity crowd of 34,439. Before the game, three Marlins’ fans, fed up with the direction of the team, showed up wearing t-shirts critical of the team’s management. Dan Barton was one of the men who wore a shirt that said “Marlins Baseball, helping other teams get better since 1998” in reference to the Marlins trading away their entire 1997 World Series winning team a year later. Another man in the group had a sign that said “Free Marlins.”
A writer from the Palm Beach (FL) Post interviewed the three men just a few minutes before they were ejected for what the Marlins described in a general statement as “causing a disturbance.” The Marlins added that the accused were asked multiple times by Miami-Dade police officers to show their IDs, which the fans did not do. It was at that point, according to the Marlins, that the men were asked to leave.
According to both WSVN-TV in Miami and the Palm Beach Post, the ejected fans were not causing a scene
The ironic thing is that it is possible that the men were kicked out during the singing of the National Anthem, which contains the line: “land of the free.” While it cannot be proven they were kicked out during the anthem, there is no denying that their ejection brings into question what a person can and cannot say at a sporting event.
It is not the first time that a team has removed fans from the premises for bringing signs that had negative comments. In Oct. 2009, the Washington Redskins, a National Football League team, introduced a rule that outlawed fans from bringing signs and banners to FedEx Field. The rule was unpopular after the Redskins ejected some fans; even ones with pro-Redskin banners and the Redskins amended their rule a few weeks later to allow some signs and banners.
In the past, it was possible for fans to bring signs and banners that supported their team as well as signs that voiced certain disappointments with how things were run.
Now, as in the case of the Marlins fans, it seems that people aren’t allowed to voice their opinions at the stadium if the team doesn’t agree with it. Rather than kicking the fans out for having negative signs that they didn’t agree with, the Marlins should have allowed the fans to wear their shirts and hold up their signs as long as the fans didn’t get confrontational with other fans around them.
Teams have the right to remove anyone from their stadiums if that person is breaking any stadium rules or causing a problem. What was the problem with three unhappy fans wearing shirts displaying displeasure with their team?
Unhappy fans are part of sports. The trick is to try and make as many of those fans happy, which the Marlins failed to do. For the fans, it is their duty to support their team through wins and losses but also to voice their disdain when the team isn’t playing up to their full potential.
The ballpark or stadium should be a place where people can go to make noise in support of their favorite team along with intimidating the visiting team. The sports arena is a social forum for people to come together if they can afford the ticket (another issue for another commentary).
Teams must be more mindful of the fact that the stands around the field of play are better when the fans are having a good time and not worried about being kicked out for their support being misconstrued by the home team for causing a disturbance.
The land of the free should also include our sports arenas. We pay for the ticket, let us tell it like it is.

Stephen Whitaker
Managing Editor