Russell Beckman is a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan. He likes dressing up in team gear and attending as many home and road games as possible each season.
Beckman is also a Chicago Bears season ticket holder, which entitles him to certain game-day experiences at Soldier Field. One of those is the opportunity to stand on the field during pregame warmups. Last season, the Bears implemented a policy that prohibits participants in that experience from wearing the opposing team’s gear.
That presents a problem for Beckman, who lives about an hour north of Chicago in Mount Pleasant, Wis. So he has filed a federal lawsuit against the Bears and the NFL for the right to wear his Packers gear — which can include a jersey, lots of green and gold beads and paint in his beard — during that on-field experience.
“Due to the prohibition that forbids wearing visiting team apparel while participating in this specific experience, the Bears have, without any compelling or reasonable cause, or constitutionally mandated reason, deprived me of my ability to fully enjoy this specific on-field experience and the general experience of the Bears Packer game at Soldier Field,” Beckman wrote in the lawsuit.
The 56-year-old high school social studies teacher said in the lawsuit that he took part in similar game-day experiences before the Packers-Bears game at Soldier Field in 2014 and 2015 and was allowed to wear his Packers gear. But an email that went out to those who had signed up for that experience in 2016 stated that participants could not wear apparel representing the opposing team, he wrote.
Beckman also states in the lawsuit that he “exchanged several emails and telephone calls” with the team’s office staff, which told him the same thing. Nevertheless, he got all decked out in Packers gear on game day and was denied access to the pregame event on the field.
“I could have worn something nondescript, but I’m there for the Packers-Bears game. I feel like the Bears are diminishing that,” Beckman told the Chicago Tribune.
A Bears spokesman told the Tribune that the team does not comment on legal matters.
Beckman is representing himself in the case and is not seeking any financial damages except to recoup legal fees.
“It’s something I paid for,” he told the Tribune. “I’m not on a noble crusade. I’m not the center of attention where I stand. [The Bears’ policy] bothers me, and I’m taking them to court.”