In news that’s refreshing and good, Major League Baseball will no longer allow teams to haze rookies by forcing them to wear women’s clothes (or other outrageous outfits).
Hazing rookies is a longstanding tradition in pro sports, with each league doling out its own unique brand of supposedly good-natured ribbing. Before the NFL became as image-conscious at it is today, it was customary for veteran players to mummify rookies in duct tape during training camp and spray them down with freezing water. In the NBA, rookies have been made to carry pink backpacks or wear pink pajamas while traveling. NHL veterans give rookies wacky haircuts and make them carry equipment. And across all of them, it’s customary to make rookies perform skits or variety shows or sing their campus fight songs — anything potentially embarrassing or entertaining.
The preferred ritual of MLB teams, however, has been to swap out the clothes in a rookie’s locker with some ridiculous outfit (such as Gumby, the Kool-Aid man or a Chippendales dancer), forcing them to wear it publicly on the team bus or plane, much to the media’s glee.
For a while, this was considered harmless fun. But it also routinely manifested itself in having rookies crossdress — see below for a man in a SuperGirl costume — and it’s easy to see how the practice could be perceived as misogynist and homophobic.
It brings to mind that scene in The Sandlot where Ham, the chubby catcher, is trading insults with the captain of the preppy team, and then bursts out, “You play ball like a girl!” And all the other boys stand there silent, mouths agape, shocked he dared utter something so offensive.
Insinuating that dressing like a woman is an embarrassment or somehow makes you less of a baseball player isn’t an association the MLB wants— hence the ban.
The anti-hazing/bullying policy will be part of the new collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players’ union, and will specifically ban “dressing up as women or wearing costumes that may be offensive to individuals based on their race, sex, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristic,” the Associated Press reports.
MLB Vice President Paul Mifsud says the league arrived at the decision begrudgingly, specifically because of social media, “which in our view sort of unfortunately publicized a lot of the dressing up of the players … those kind of things which in our view were insensitive and potentially offensive to a number of groups.”
Baseball has garnered a reputation in recent years as the stodgiest of the four largest professional sports leagues. The game itself seems oppressively slow in the social media era, as evidenced by its dwindling fan base. Those who continue to watch baseball religiously are increasingly seen as out-of-touch old-timers.
Indeed, baseball hardliners will probably scoff at the decision as proof of political correctness run amok. When did baseball get so cucked?! What happened to the good ol’ days when you could make rookies parade around in Disney princess outfits and laugh at them for being a bunch of fairies?!
Mifsud’s comments indicate the league would’ve likely continued the tradition were it not for societal pressure, and only serves to strengthen that perception of its fanbase. So thank Twitter for dragging the MLB into the 21st century and ending an institution it should have had the foresight to do away itself with years ago.