Canadian fan hassled for doing wave with flag
LOS ANGELES–Canadian baseball fans have a message for the staff of Dodger Stadium: Don't tread on me.
During Saturday night's contest between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Dodgers, a security guard attempted to confiscate a Canadian flag from a fan. That provoked an angry confrontation with about 100 local expats attending the game.
The flag waver was Lee Fraser, a 29-year-old native of Pembroke, Ont., who works in L.A. in the entertainment business. As he showed his national pride during the sixth inning, a single security staffer demanded he hand over his Maple Leaf. When Fraser refused, the guard found himself facing a pocket of Canadian indignation.
"The whole crew went crazy," Fraser said. "They sent down three or four security guards, the LAPD. Because, you know, Canadians are such a big threat."
"Suddenly, it's about defending your honour and your flag," Dodgers vice-president of stadium operations Lon Rosenberg said yesterday. "You're touching something that's very emotional. If it was our flag, it'd be the same way."
Rosenberg, who arrived on the scene near the end of the incident, defended the guard's actions. He noted the Dodgers' Fan Code of Conduct prohibits "signs or banners of any kind."
Fraser is the president of a southern California social group called Canadians Abroad. High-profile expatriate members of the group include Leonard Cohen, Paul Anka and Alan Thicke. The group often sponsors outings to local sporting events featuring visiting Canadian teams. A disparate group of Canadians was sitting beside the visitors' bullpen on Saturday night. Fraser brought his Canadian flag along with him. He said he's taken the same flag to many other professional sporting events without incident.
Upon entering, he was warned by Dodger security not to wave the flag. He said he was permitted to hold it up during the national anthem.
During the sixth inning, the Dodgers loaded the bases with two out. Toronto pitcher Shaun Marcum got L.A. slugger Luis Gonzalez to pop out to end the inning, drawing groans from the majority of the crowd and jubilation in the small Canadian section. Fraser stood up and began waving his flag.
"The security guard ran up and said, `Get that flag down,'" Fraser recalled. "They tried to confiscate my flag."
While Fraser negotiated with the guard, other members of the group angrily took up his defence.
The First Amendment was mentioned. Canada's role in Afghanistan was a featured argument.
Flag waving "causes the fans, at times, to become aggressive toward each other. ... It's a zero tolerance policy," Rosenberg said, adding that the same rule would apply to the U.S. flag. Banners featuring the L.A. Dodger logo are exempt.
During the heated argument that followed, one couple was ejected. The fans claim a woman was roughly shoved by security as she left.
"It was totally insane," said Dan Woods, part of the group. Woods is an actor known for his role as the teacher Mr. Raditch on the TV series Degrassi High. "I could not believe what I was seeing. Over a flag!"
"There was a little bit of a push in the back," Rosenberg said. "I viewed it. It's very unintentional."
Rosenberg was able to review the incident because it was taped by Dodger security. He would not allow the media to see the tape, but did say it would be reviewed to see what lessons could be learned from the incident for future training.
"During the national anthem, we gave (Fraser) a break. Then we asked him to put it away. When he didn't, that's zero tolerance," Rosenberg said, adding the Dodgers' no-flag policy will stand for now.
Fraser and Woods said many of the Canadians left early in disgust. Woods had tickets to yesterday's third and final game between the Jays and Dodgers and had planned to attend. Fraser had tickets as well, but was considering skipping the game as of yesterday morning.
"I've kind of got a sour taste in my mouth over the whole thing," Fraser said. "It was ridiculous."
That's so unlike Canadians. We're not a flag-waving nationalistic group. The truth is that we only get that way when we're surrounded by Americans
But I'd love to see a security guard try to confiscate an American flag. They would put more holes in him than in the D-Ray defence.