Central Pa. Steelers fans can hang banner for now

PITTSBURGH (AP) -A pair of Pittsburgh Steelers fans in south-central Pennsylvania will be able hang a banner at their house supporting the NFL team - at least for now - even though the borough claims the sign violates a zoning ordinance.

Alissa Myers and her husband, Frank Patti, purchased a 2-foot-by-8-foot ``You're in Steelers Country'' banner at a fair this summer and hung it from the porch of their home in Penbrook, just outside Harrisburg, when the football season started in early September.

The couple was notified by Penbrook officials on Sept. 30 that they were violating an ordinance governing temporary banners. They were given three choices: remove the banner, pay $40 for a permit to hang the sign as long as the Steelers' season lasted, or display it only on game days.

While the banner has been displayed only on game days since October, none of the options suited the 34-year-old Myers, a longtime Steelers fan. She wanted to display the banner much of the year.

``There's just a different mentality to Steelers fans, and once it gets in your blood, it doesn't get out,'' Myers said Thursday.

She said she developed a fondness for Pittsburgh teams while growing up near State College, and her devotion to the Steelers was further solidified while attending Penn State's Fayette County campus.

A neighbor suggested she contact the ACLU , which took up her cause and notified Penbrook officials Wednesday that the ordinance violated Myers' free speech rights.

The important issue here is the government can't tell a homeowner what messages they can display on their property,'' said WitoldVic'' Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania. ``It's a matter not just of free speech, but of property rights.''

Penbrook's solicitor Bruce Foreman said the ordinance is relatively old and that the borough would look into whether it needs to be modified

Until the borough decides what to do, Myers and Patti can display the banner.

The banner wasn't the issue, Foreman said.

``Whether it says 'Steelers Country' or 'Elect candidate X' ... it just wouldn't matter,'' Foreman said of the area that divides its NFL loyalties between the Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens.

``I would say the majority of people in Penbrook who are football fans are Steelers fans,'' he said.

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