George Norcross said a few months ago he’s retiring from politics. But not apparently from being a football fan.
A Norcross adventure on Sunday – two days before the election – put the “former” Democratic boss back in the spotlight thanks to the nexus of football and politics.
Norcross was in his box at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia for the game between the Eagles and the Cowboys with a group that included Chris Christie, an old companion, their political sentiments, notwithstanding.
Trouble began when Norcross hung a banner over the outside of his suite that displayed both the American and Israeli flags.
In doing so, Norcross certainly expressed the sentiment of many Americans – and presumably many people in the stadium – in the wake of last month’s terrorist attack against Israel by Hamas.
However, there is nothing simple or cut and dry about politics. Pro sports is not immune to the political polarization of the day. Remember the reaction a few seasons ago when a few NFL players knelt during the National Anthem.
With that in mind, it is common for sports teams to ban political signs or banners. If you want to bring a sign into a stadium, it has to be, as the Eagles said in this case, “event-related.”
That excludes expressing support for an ally of the United States and opposing terrorism, at least to the Eagles’ management.
It is very easy to criticize the Eagles for their stance, but if you step back a moment, the team’s position is not as crazy as it may seem.
If the team allows a seemingly popular political expression to be displayed in the stands, it would also have to permit a seemingly unpopular expression. In this case, that would be someone displaying the Palestinian flag.
Moving this conversation more to domestic politics, how about fans displaying pro-Trump flags? Or anti-Trump banners?
It seems very logical that the Eagles, or for that matter, any sports team, would not want that. Going to a football game should not be the same as a political rally. Nor should it be a political brawl.
Another part of this story is how it unfolded.
From what we know, Norcross did not remove his banner, put it away, and simply continue to watch the game.
Video on social media shows him arguing with staff and then being “escorted” – a nice way of saying thrown out – of the stadium. Surely, things did not have to escalate to that extent.
Here’s part of what the Eagles said:
“Our stadium policies expressly prohibit signage containing any kind of non-game messaging to be hung from a stadium suite. Stadium staff repeatedly asked Mr. Norcross to remove the sign he hung outside of the suite. Instead of complying with the request, Mr. Norcross became physically and verbally abusive. Mr. Norcross was ejected from the stadium only after his abuse toward numerous stadium staff members continued. He was escorted from the suite level to the stadium’s ejection point, just as anyone else would be after engaging in abusive behavior in violation of stadium policy.”
Here is where one well versed in New Jersey politics may wonder if Norcross expected some sort of special treatment because of who he is – or was. Retired or not, he is the brother of Rep. Donald Norcross.
For his part, Norcross said he is considering suing the “Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL and the security company which yanked me out of the box and paraded me in front of thousands of fans, I urge other supporters of Israel to make their feelings known to the team and the NFL just as they have to universities like Penn and Harvard.”
In fairness, this incident has nothing to do with anti-Semitic expressions by some at Pennsylvania and Harvard universities. Norcross is raising a red herring.
The feeling here is that there will be no suit, because it is unlikely to go anywhere.
As the operators of Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles have the legal right to enforce a policy on banners.
What, if anything, happens further with this case remains to be seen. What is true is that George Norcross is in the news again around Election Day.