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Monday, Nov 20, 2017
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Yankees-hating shirt gets Rays fan in trouble

Yankees Suck. That's the mantra among some fans of just about every Major League Baseball team, other than the New York Yankees. Chants often start up when the Bronx Bombers step up to bat in away stadiums. Tropicana Field is no exception. So it struck Melton H. Little, a Palmetto attorney and holder of seven Tampa Bay Rays season tickets, a bit strange when he was pulled from his seat 10 rows behind home plate during a Rays-Yankees game last week and told to tweak his attire.
His T-shirt said "Yankees Suck." "I was at the game, walked in with my kids and got something to eat," he said. "I walked down to my seat and five or six people tell me that was a great shirt. One asked me where to buy one. I got to my seat and was surrounded by Yankee fans." Those fans are used to the derision placed on the Yankees from fans of other teams. They shrugged off the "Yankees Suck" T-shirt, said Little, who said he has had season tickets since the Rays began play in 1998 and was part of the movement 10 years earlier to bring a Major League Baseball team to the Tampa Bay area. This year, his seven season tickets cost nearly $20,000. The game got under way, but in the fourth inning a security guard came down the aisle and approached Little. "The security guard says Major League Baseball has determined that the shirt constitutes profanity," Little said. "He tells me to get another shirt, cover it up, turn it inside out or leave the stadium. "I said, 'That's unbelievable,' and he says, 'I don't' make rules, I'm just telling you.' " The lawyer said there was no way he was going to stand up, take the shirt off and turn it inside out in front of all those ready-to-taunt Yankee fans. How embarrassing, he said. "They would have said something and I'm not a shrinking violet," he said. "I would have said something back." Little and his two sons, 8 and 19, instead accompanied the security guard to the offices to appeal the decision. But he got no relief there. He said a front-office Rays employee just shut the door on him. As he walked out of the stadium, the Rays rallied to take the lead in a game they eventually won 6-5. That's when the crowd began to chant, "Yankees suck," he said. "I wonder if any of them were asked to leave." On Monday, he wrote a letter to the team's owners and top management telling them step-by-step what happened at the May 16 game and asking them to review the dress code policy and make some changes. "Yankees Suck" is not obscene, offensive or indecent, he contended, which are terms to describe clothing that the fan handbook forbids. He said he paid $10 for the shirt outside Fenway Park in Boston about 10 years ago. "There were about 10,000 Red Sox fans wearing them inside," he said. Rays spokesman Rick Vaughn declined to comment on the T-shirt kerfuffle, though he has reviewed Little's letter. "We get tons of letters from fans all the time," was all he would say. The Yankees get a lot of derision wherever they go, what with winning 40 American League pennants and 27 World Series. Howard Grosswirth, vice president of Yankees marketing, said he had not heard about the incident. He, too, declined to comment, saying it was a Rays issue and didn't really involve the Yankees. He said the shirt probably wasn't approved MLB merchandise. Even though he has had the "Yankees Suck" shirt for 10 years, Little said last week was the first time he ever wore it to a game. "I have a bunch of Rays shirts, but they all were in the laundry," he said. "It never crossed my mind that this shirt would cause a problem." [email protected] (813) 259-7760
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