(CN) – The 4th Circuit upheld a federal judge’s ruling that the Washington Redskins and FedEx Field were responsible for providing hearing-impaired fans equal access to the stadium’s public address system through captioning.
The ‘Skins had originally appealed the decision to ask the court specifically about the lyrics of songs played during football games and whether deaf and hearing-impaired fans require access to song lyrics in order to fully and equally enjoy the game.
“Whatever the poetic merit of the lyrics and their relevance to the sport of football, we agree with the district court that the music played over the public address system during Redskins home games is part of the football game experience that defendants provide as a good or service, and that the ADA requires full and equal access to the music lyrics,” the ruling states.
The National Association of the Deaf filed suit on behalf of three hearing-impaired fans, demanding that the team caption the stadium’s public address system announcements on the scoreboards, specifically “anything that is said by a referee, the public address announcer, or anyone else using the public address system,” according to the ruling.
Soon after, the Redskins began captioning most of the content heard on the stadium’s PA system. However, the team did not provide access to music lyrics.
The issue was left to the appeals to court to decide.
“By having access to the lyrics, plaintiffs have the opportunity to participate in the communal entertainment experience,” the ruling states. “Without access to lyrics played, for example, during cheerleader dance routines and the halftime show, plaintiffs would not fully and equally experience the planned and synchronized promotional entertainment that large stadiums like FedEx Field provide.”
One dissenting judge found that the district erred through a broad ruling, which could pose undue burdens on other stadiums and require them to make fundamental alterations.