The roster of men in green and gold who have given the Chicago Bears fits is long and illustrious. Ray Nitschke wouldn’t just tackle halfbacks, he’d crunch them. Bart Starr cut open Bear secondaries with a surgeon’s precision. Aaron Rodgers? Every Bears fan knows what’s on his resume—fourth quarter comebacks on one leg, punch-in-the-gut game-winning drives, last-second touchdowns that dash playoff dreams.

And then there’s Russell Beckman.

He doesn’t really cut the same imposing figure as, say, a Reggie White or a Clay Matthews. Paunchy, thick gray beard, wire-rimmed glasses. But he proudly dons Packers bay-green-and-cheese-gold, and his desire to wear Green Bay gear on the sidelines at Soldier Field during pregame warmups has Bears management rattled.

Beckman, a Wisconsin social studies and special education teacher in his 50s, is a Packers fan. He also has been a Bears season ticket holder for years. One of the perks for season ticket holders is that they can use accrued loyalty points for fan experiences, including standing on the sidelines during pregame warmups.

In 2016 he showed up to a Bears-Packers pregame event at Soldier Field in his Packers jersey, but was denied entry. So last year he sued the Bears in federal court, seeking to force the team to allow him to wear his Packer garb on the sidelines during pregame warmups.

Beckman’s argument is twofold. He says he should be allowed to wear what he wants because, while the Bears are a private organization, Soldier Field is owned by the Chicago Park District and is hence a public facility. And, he says, barring him from wearing what he wants on the sidelines infringes on his First Amendment rights. His suit claims “viewpoint discrimination.”

The Bears lost their bid to have the case tossed out of bounds last year, but have asked the judge to reconsider that ruling. The team has a policy against fans wearing gear from the opposing team during the pregame sidelines promo, and they may be on solid legal footing to enforce that policy. Yes, they rent Soldier Field from the city. But say you get a permit to have a party at a public park. Aren’t you within your legal rights to bar anyone you want from your party?

We get what’s bristling the Bears. We’re reminded of a line from that iconic football movie “Rudy,” when Notre Dame coach Dan Devine—played by Chicago-based actor Chelcie Ross—tells his team, “No one, and I mean no one, comes in our house and pushes us around.” At the same time, there are many bulwarks to the Bears’ brand, and one of them is the team’s historic, fiercely intense rivalry with those Cheeseheads to the north. Letting Beckman show up to warmups in green and gold embraces that rivalry.

Another hearing in the case was slated for Friday. While the Bears ponder their legal arguments, they should also ponder this. The best way to beat Cheeseheads is with Xs and Os, with Trubisky, Cohen and Mack—not with legal briefs. The Bears play the Packers at Soldier Field on Dec. 16. When they do, their biggest worry shouldn’t be Russell Beckman’s green-and-gold baubles. It should be Rodgers’ cannon arm. does not condone or review every comment. Read more in our Commenter Policy Agreement

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