Three teenagers who say they were tossed from a New Jersey ballpark over their refusal to stand during the song God Bless America are suing the minor league team.
The boys argue that their constitutional rights were violated when they were asked to leave Newark’s Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium on June 29 by Bears’ president and co-owner Thomas Cetnar.
Cetnar acknowledged the boys were asked to leave but declined to say why.
He also has denied making some statements attributed to him in the lawsuit.
The boys - Bryce Gadye and Nilkumar Patel, both 17, and Shaan Mohammad Khan, 16 - sued in federal court on Friday seeking unspecified damages.
According to the lawsuit, the boys were seated behind home plate when the song began playing. Once it ended, they say Cetnar approached them yelling.
“Nobody sits during the singing of God Bless America in my stadium,” the lawsuit quotes Cetnar as saying.
“Now the get the (expletive) out of here.”
Cetnar denied saying that: “Never, never did that ever happen.”
Cetnar said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit, but called the boys’ account “a huge fabrication”.
The boys are being represented by Bryce Gadye’s father, Ross, who said the boys weren’t protesting the song and no one asked them to stand.
“The boys weren’t trying to make any political statements, they just didn’t get up,” he said.
“No one gave them an ultimatum. The song was sung, it was finished, then they were thrown out.”
God Bless America, written by Irving Berlin in 1918, was played at big league ballparks throughout the country when baseball resumed after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and has remained a fixture at New York Yankees games.
In July, the Yankees and New York City settled a lawsuit with a fan who said he was ejected from Yankee Stadium by police after he left his seat to go to the toilet during the playing of God Bless America.
The city did not admit liability in the settlement, but agreed to give the fan $US10,000 ($A11,600) and pay $US12,000 ($A14,000) in legal fees.
The Yankees changed their policy, and fans at the team’s new stadium are allowed to move freely during the song.
Gadye declined to let his son be interviewed, saying he was concerned about his safety over reaction to the lawsuit, which was first reported in The Star-Ledger of Newark.
“They’ve been getting all kinds of mixed reaction,” he said.
“I think what makes it so horrible is that they were publicly humiliated for exercising a right that was guaranteed to them by the United States Constitution,” Gadye said.