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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Despite Nike’s Efforts, MLB Uniform Controversy Isn’t Looking Good

  • The manufacturer touts the benefits of the new jerseys and pants, but it ignores the complaints of see-through fabric.
  • A union leader says that among players, the ‘universal concern is the pant.’
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Nike has made its first overt attempt at damage control surrounding MLB’s new and oft-criticized uniforms, but the step has only served to further inflame the growing controversy. 

After more than a week of player unrest surrounding the lighter and more flexible but see-through designs, developed in partnership with Fanatics, Nike issued a public statement late Thursday about its efforts.

“We always put the athlete at the center of everything we do,” Nike said. “We worked closely with MLB players, teams, and the league to create the most advanced uniforms in the history of MLB, which are lighter and more flexible. The quality and performance of our product is of the utmost importance to us. We will continue to work with MLB, the players, and our manufacturing partner to address player uniforms.”

The sentiment, however, has not helped to quell the concerns, as MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark reiterated Thursday that the uniform issue—and particularly the see-through pants—is top of mind among the union membership.

“It’s disappointing that we’ve landed in a place where the uniforms are the topic of discussion,” Clark said as he continued a tour of spring training camps. “It’s been an ongoing conversation where each day has yielded something new that doesn’t seem to make as much sense as you would like it. … [The] universal concern is the pant.”

Swing and a Miss

DraftKings and NESN personality Jared Carrabis went further, posting on X, “Every time I’ve seen the backlash addressed, all [Nike and MLB] do is talk about how light and flexible jerseys are. They keep ignoring the whole letters looking stupid and being able to see everybody’s testicles thing.”

Meanwhile, a growing number of players have staged their own silent protests by wearing uniform pants from last year as spring training continues. Product availability issues have also arisen, and not all of MLB’s 30 teams have received their full allotment of the new pants. Because of that, the Padres wore last year’s pants Thursday for their Cactus League opener against the Dodgers. 

Not the First Time

The MLB uniform situation and the player frustration bear watching as it carries some thematic similarities to the NBA’s brief and ill-fated attempt in 2006 to introduce a synthetic composition basketball. 

After widespread player complaints—and ultimately charges—levied against the league by the National Basketball Players Association of unfair labor practices, the NBA switched back to the traditional leather ball.

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