CHICAGO — A Green Bay Packers fan is making a federal case out of a dispute with the Chicago Bears, filing a lawsuit accusing the rival team of violating his free-speech rights by prohibiting him from wearing Packers apparel at Bears’ pregame warmups.
Russell Beckman of Mount Pleasant filed the 10-page lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Friday seeking a court order lifting the ban.
An email Beckman sent to Bears executives that he included in his court filing last week accuses the team of creating “segregated safe spaces for Bears fans” by banishing Packers gear.
“Stop coddling them,” he wrote.
The filing includes a photograph of the lifelong Green Bay fan in a green-and-gold Packers jersey and with his beard dyed green. Beckman lives just across the Illinois state line — an hour drive north of Chicago — and holds Bears season tickets, the lawsuit says.
The suit’s focus is a Bears rewards program that lets season-ticket holders stand along the sidelines during certain pregame warmups at Soldier Field, something Beckman says he did in 2014 and 2015 in Packers apparel.
The Bears sent him an email before a December Bears-Packers game warning in capital letters, “NO OPPOSING TEAM GEAR WILL BE ALLOWED,” according to the lawsuit. He went in Packers apparel anyway and was turned away.
The Bears didn’t respond Monday to a message seeking comment. But one of several emails the Bears sent to Beckman explaining the policy said the sideline access “was specifically created as a unique opportunity for Chicago Bears fans.”
In a letter to the NFL complaining about the policy, Beckman notes he followed both the Packers and Bears as a child before picking the Packers as his No. 1 team.
“Doesn’t the fact that the Bears are my second favorite NFL team qualify me as a ‘Bears fan?’ ” he wrote.