Dressing up rookies as buxom Hooters waitresses, scantily-clad cheerleaders, Cinderella, Wonder Woman or Lady Gaga is banned under a new anti-hazing policy adopted by Major League Baseball that seeks to make the tradition less offensive.
A labor agreement ratified Tuesday states that teams must cease “requiring, coercing or encouraging” players to dress up as women or wear costumes “that may be offensive to individuals based on their race, sex, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristic,” according to the Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the policy.
Long considered a prank that promoted clubhouse bonding, hazing had gotten more extreme in recent years and some players resented the humiliation. MLB leaders are also worried about the reach of social media photos, which “unfortunately publicized a lot of the dressing up of the players…those kinds of things which in our view were insensitive and potentially offensive to a number of groups,” MLB vice president Paul Mifsud told AP.
“Although it hasn’t happened, you could sort of see how someone might even dress up in blackface and say, ‘Oh, no, we were just dressing up,’” Mifsud said. “We’ve also understood a number of players have complained about it.”
Miami Marlins pitcher Tom Koehler said he “loved dressing up like a Team USA water polo player and running around New York” when the Marlins put him and teammates through their initiation in skimpy swimsuits and headgear.
“The way the sport is being covered has changed and things that were acceptable 40 years ago may not be viewed as such now,” Koehler said. “In saying that, rookie dress-up day is something everyone has been a part of. As long as they do not completely take that away, I am fine with guidelines.”
One season during a New York road trip, Marlins players dressed up as cartoon characters and had to take the 7 train from Shea Stadium to Times Square, where they paraded around in public.
“Seriously?!” former Boston Red Sox player Kevin Youkilis posted on Twitter. “Had to wear a Hooters outfit going through customs in Toronto and wore it proudly [because] I was in the Show.”
Among other examples: Bryce Harper and fellow Washington Nationals as U.S. Olympic female gymnasts in red leotards; Mike Trout as Lady Gaga; Carlos Correa as Wonder Woman; Manny Machado as a ballerina.
Batman, Spider-Man and other male superheroes are allowed. It’s still OK for Dodger Yasiel Puig to be Gumby.
Rituals like making rookies fetch coffee or buy snacks or carry luggage are also permitted, but forcing players “to consume alcoholic beverages or any other kind of drug, or requiring the ingestion of an undesirable or unwanted substance (food, drink, concoction)” is prohibited, according to the AP report.
The new policy includes anti-bullying provisions, too. MLB examined what happened with the Miami Dolphins when Richie Incognito and other Dolphins harassed teammate Jonathan Martin.
(Miami Herald reporter Clark Spencer contributed to this report.)