July 4th would have been a great day to kick back, go to Space Coast Stadium in Melbourne, FL, watch the Brevard County Manatees play the Daytona Cubs, buy a beer and a hot dog, and enjoy some firework festivities.
Unfortunately, Space Coast Stadium was hijacked by "tea party" protesters. According to Florida Today.com,
About 3,000 opponents collectively criticized the current administration as a free-spending government that is leading the nation with a socialist agenda. They banded together Saturday at Space Coast Stadium for a Fourth of July "tea party."
Long before the 4 p.m. start of the event, crowds gathered to purchase $5 tickets that included a voucher for admission to the Brevard County Manatees-Daytona Cubs baseball game and fireworks show to follow.
Pictures on FloridaToday.com and in the print version of the Florida Today also show "tea party" members inside Space Coast Stadium rallying for their cause.
Hijacking public events cannot become a growing trend. Stadiums across the country have to put the kibosh on this real quick and tell these people that they can not protest inside our sporting events. Of course, we all know the first stadium to take away fans' political signs as they enter the stadium will be accused of violating the fans' 1st amendment rights. What these fans must understand is freedom of expression inside a venue is guided by the rules and regulations of the venue.
Whether or not I agree with these protesters is irrelevant. I just want to make that perfectly clear. But I do think that by allowing a political rally to be held inside the stadium, the powers that be at Space Coast Stadium opened a pandora's box that should not have been opened. By allowing the "tea party" protest to continue in a public area, Space Coast Stadium now has to provide space in the same venue for any and all other gatherings, to include extremists such as the Ku Klux Klan. To not do so would be to exhibit favoritism of expression and to associate Space Coast Stadium with a specific political view.
I seriously doubt Space Coast Stadium will want to be known as a "protester friendly stadium". What the stadium personnel did on July 4th was a mistake. Nothing good can come from it, especially from an economic perspective. Allowing the "tea party" protest to continue through the gates put the stadium on a slippery slope that will do nothing but discourage non-partisan baseball fans from enjoying a day at the ballpark.
If I were a Brevard County Manatee season ticket holder or other frequent visitor to Space Coast Stadium, I would demand an apology from the organization and not attend another game until I had a guarantee that political rallies will no longer be allowed to infringe on the baseball watching experience.