Free speech, as it turns out, isn’t. At least not yet.
A Packers fan who owns Bears season tickets has been denied the right to wear green and gold on the sidelines at Sunday’s game between the NFC North rivals, as part of a promotion for season-ticket holders. Russell Beckman, who filed after being denied the right to wear Packers gear during 2016, failed in his effort to secure a preliminary injunction allowing him to support the team as he sees fit, while the lawsuit proceeds.
He hasn’t lost the case; instead, the judge found that he wasn’t entitled to a change in the status quo until the case is resolved in his favor, if it ever is resolved in his favor.
“The Judge today said the parties’ arguments to the Court were essentially a tie ball,” attorney Michael R. Lieber said in a statement. “But a tie ball goes to the home team at this juncture. This case is in its early stages. As we proceed through discovery, we expect that the facts will show that the Bears are so entwined with a public entity — the Chicago Park District — that the Bears must uphold all Soldier Field patrons’ First Amendment rights. And that includes fans of opposing teams.”
Judge Joan B. Gottschall issued a 21-page ruling explaining the decision. She found that Beckman “made a fairly modest showing that he is likely to succeed in demonstrating that the Bears” are subject to the First Amendment as a state entity. Based on the various factors that determine whether a party can secure what essentially is an advance on a victory before actually winning in court, she decided that Beckman must wait while the wheels of justice continue to churn.
The fact that he’s gotten this far is already a win. Judge Gottschall already has rejected an effort by the Bears to dismiss the case entirely. The case will now proceed, and Beckman will have to leave his cheesehead in the car, if he wants to have access to the sideline.