Ban Upheld for Tar Heels Fan Who Harassed Team

     (CN) – A “dedicated fan” of the North Carolina Tar Heels was not deprived of his rights when he was banned from games for making inappropriate comments to female players and staff members, a state appeals court ruled.
     John F. Donnelly Jr. graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1970, and has supported the Tar Heels sports teams ever since. He also volunteered as an usher.
     However, he was involved in a series of incidents from 2006 to 2012 that led to the university banning him from all of its athletic facilities.
     Donnelly made suggestive comments to female members of the school’s athletic staff, harassed female soccer players at their hotel, and criticized players in front of their family members while serving as an usher.
     In addition, he harassed athletic staff members by calling their offices up to 13 times per day.
     The final incident took place at the Women’s Soccer College Cup in San Diego in December 2012. Donnelly tried to communicate with the Tar Heels players in person and on Facebook before the event.
     Donnelly showed up at the hotel in San Diego, allegedly “because he won an autographed soccer ball and couldn’t locate the head coach’s signature on the ball.”
     Donnelly was asked to leave the hotel, and he did so.
     The university followed up by issuing a Notice of Trespass to Donnelly, banning him from UNC athletic facilities. The university denied his appeals, so he took the university to court.
     The superior court ruled in favor of the university, stating that “no substantial rights of the petitioner have been prejudiced and that the final decision of the university should be affirmed.”
     Donnelly took the case to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, which also ruled in the school’s favor. Judge Sanford L. Steelman Jr. explained that the school did not violate Donnelly’s First Amendment rights.
     “Petitioner harassed athletes, the family members of athletes, athletic staff members and fans. This behavior is not protected by the First Amendment,” he wrote.
     Steelman added that the university’s decision was not arbitrary and capricious.
     “This was not the first time that petitioner was reprimanded for this type of behavior. The Final University Decision summarizes a long series of events which led to the indefinite ban,” the judge stated.
     Judge Robert N. Hunter Jr. wrote a concurring opinion. He added that his colleagues should have applied all four prongs of a test in the 1968 case of U.S. v. O’Brien. That case was about a man who protested the Vietnam War by burning his draft card.

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