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MLB's Hazing Ban Draws Criticism as Owners Ratify Deal

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Star-News (Wilmington, NC)

 

NEW YORK - A person with knowledge of the meeting says baseball owners have ratified the sport's new collective bargaining agreement by a 29-1 vote.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity because no announcement was made, the person says Tampa Bay Rays managing general partner Stuart Sternberg was the lone dissenting vote during the telephone meeting Tuesday.

Players also had been scheduled to hold a ratification vote.

The five-year deal was agreed to Nov. 30, about 3½ hours before the expiration of the previous contract.

The agreement raises the luxury tax thresholds, increases some of the tax rates, imposes a hard cap on signing bonuses for international amateurs and bans smokeless tobacco for players who do not already have major league service. It also eliminates the provision that gave World Series home-field advantage to the All-Star winner and bans rookie hazing that includes costumes as women.

The hazing ban came under fire from both current and former major league players.

Los Angeles closer Huston Street said he considers the elimination of rookie dress up in the new labor deal the loss of a healthy ritual.

Like many players expressing their views Tuesday, he disagrees with Major League Baseball s ban on the hazing ritual of dressing up rookies in costumes that could be considered offensive, including women's outfits.

"An effort to show our childlike spirit, or humble ourselves in wearing something funny as a team building moment, is now gone," Street wrote in an email to The Associated Press, "but rest assured some other ritual will rise, will be kept far more secret and hopefully it's as safe and harmless as uncomfortable clothes."

New York Mets rookie outfielder Brandon Nimmo was among the last group to participate this past season. In September, he had to wear a wig and dress in the style of the 1992 movie A League of Their Own while fetching coffee and doughnuts in Philadelphia.

"I guess I'm sad to see that go. I'm glad that I got to partake in it last year. Wouldn't trade that," Nimmo said at the team's Citi Field holiday party. "I felt like it just kind of brought the team closer together, let's have a little fun together."

Many retired players were outraged, taking to social media to show their disgust.

"What a joke!!" tweeted Mark Mulder, a big league pitcher from 2000-08.

Yet for baseball officials, the decision goes far beyond just good-natured fun.

Billy Bean, a big league infielder and outfielder from 1987-95 who came out as gay in 1999, spoke with MLB's labor lawyers as the policy was developed as part of his role as vice president for social responsibility and inclusion.

"To me it's important to be cognizant of the images that our players project to our fans, and I think where for many where it would seem that it's common sense that it's just all in good fun and being silly, there are many sides to the story and I just think that it's a responsible thing to do," he said during a telephone interview. Many players didn't like this tradition but were afraid to speak up.

Oakland Athletics rookie pitcher Brad Ziegler (left) walks toward the team bus after a 14-4 loss to the Texas Rangers in 2008. The hazing ritual of dressing up rookies as Wonder Woman, Hooters Girls and Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders is now banned under Major League Baseball's Anti-Hazing and Anti-Bullying Policy. Associated Press file photo

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December 14, 2016
 
 
 

 

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