First Amendment

Is Fan Jeering at Public University Sports Events Protected by the First Amendment? Few Cases Decide

As March madness heats up, so do the fans.

The New York Times sees a legal issue in the yelling by spectators that sometimes results in ejection: Is a fan’s protest at a sports event a form of expression protected by the First Amendment?

The free speech issue could come into play at games hosted by a public university, in arenas built with public financing, or on land operated by a municipal authority. There is little precedent, however, partly because teams and arenas want to avoid cases that could establish fan rights, the story says.

There is no “exemplary test case that settles every aspect” of the First Amendment question, according to University of Pennsylvania law professor Scott Rosner. “But traditionally, courts have come down on the side that free speech at a sporting event has limits,” he tells the Times. “It is a right that is revocable—maybe because the few fans that come before courts have really overdone it.”

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