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This Packers fan thinks he may have sparked Bears policy that got them sued
CHICAGO – Chris Von Ehrenkrook thinks he might have provided the spark that eventually resulted in another Green Bay Packers fan suing the Chicago Bears for banning him from wearing Packers gear on the field before a game.
Like Russell Beckman, whose lawsuit against the Bears was kept alive by a federal district court judge at the end of March, Von Ehrenkrook is a Bears season ticket holder and diehard Packers fan.
Beckman's lawsuit claims the Bears violated his civil rights when he was prohibited from participating in an on-field promotion for season ticket holders because he was wearing Packers attire.
Von Ehrenkrook's run-in with the Bears dates to 2009, when the team approached him about being one of four Spotlight Season Ticket Holders for the season opener at Soldier Field. The program honored long-time season ticket holders.
As it happens, they were playing the Packers, and Von Ehrenkrook said sure, he'd love to participate. He failed to mention that he was a Packers fan.
"I wasn't about to turn them down," he said.
That it was a Packers-Bears game was "completely dumb luck. They could have asked me for any game," Von Ehrenkrook said.
That's the kind of luck the Bears were having in those years.
Von Ehrenkrook showed up at Soldier Field with a $50 check for the Bear Care charity and a Packers jersey. They took the check and let him and a friend on the field, with some reluctance.
"The marketing person was nice, but she was not happy about it, you could see," he said. "My friend, who is a Bears fan, was dying."
His friend, Brian Mariani, admits he was more amused by it than Von Ehrenkrook was.
"I’m a long-time bears fan. He’s a long-time Packers fan. We give each other grief," Mariani said.
The event included shooting a video of the Spotlight participants with Bears mascot Staley Da Bear, which would play on the scoreboard during the game.
The Bears reps tried to talk Van Ehrenkrook out of his jersey — he refused — and asked if he wanted Mariani to stand in for him. He refused again.
They put Van Ehrenkrook to Staley's left and the others to his right and then videoed Van Ehrenkrook right out of the picture.
"When they showed up on the video board, he was not on the video," Mariani said.
Whether Van Ehrenkrook was the cause for the jersey ban or the Bears' sensitivity to promoting the other side got to be too much, the Bears began warning fans in advance about apparel.
"The following year, my friend got accepted to be a flag holder during the national anthem," he said. "They said 'You can't wear opposing team jerseys.'"
His co-workers, who were all Bears fans, said the Bears added the prohibition because of him. The co-workers called it "Chris' rule."
Von Ehrenkrook became a Bears season ticket holder in 1982 because getting Packers tickets was difficult. A friend was moving from the area and, the Bears, who at the time were pretty awful and had not yet begun their climb to a Super Bowl XX victory in 1986, allowed fans to transfer tickets to non-family members.
Von Ehrenkrook, who is 58, moved to the Chicago area with his family in the early 1960s, when the Packers were the toast of the NFL and the Bears were mostly not. He was young and the Packers were really good, so he imprinted.
Beckman, who lives in Green Bay, had a similar, though not identical experience. He tried to use Bears personal seat license reward points to get onto the field before a Packers-Bears game in 2016 and was denied. He believes that was a violation of his free speech and equal treatment of the laws rights because he contends Soldier Field is a public, not private, facility.