Rookie players joining the ranks of Major League Baseball have never had it easy. But thanks to new rules put in place by MLB leadership, they’ll at least be able to skip cross-dressing up as cheerleaders or in costumes that depict them as female.
According to an “anti-bullying policy” now required for team contracts, players are prohibited from forcing their teammates to dress in any costume that the league and its lawyers deem “offensive to individuals based on their race, sex, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender identify or other characteristic.”
And that includes cheerleader costumes, and replica uniforms from the movie A League of Their Own, once embraced by the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets, respectively.
Eliminating the hazing of newcomers, however, isn’t the policy’s only goal, though it does specifically outlaw any tradition that involves consuming quantities of alcohol, illegal substances, or food.
According to league and union officials, teams must now be conscious of how they handle things like “gender identity,” so that they don’t accidentally mistreat fans who aren’t able to process the humor of forcing a grown man to wear a wig and a short skirt. League Vice President Paul Mifsud noted that “those kind of things which in our view were insensitive and potentially offensive to a number of groups.”
“Times have changed. There is certain conduct that we have to be conscious of,” echoled Players Union official Dave Prouty.
The League of Their Own outfits appeared to trigger the policy change, after feminist bloggers assailed the league for its “casual sexism,” after the Mets rookies showed off their outfits on social media.
— New York Mets (@Mets) October 1, 2016
The bloggers, were, apparently, traumatized by the photo, which they said not only depicted a sexist trend among baseball players, but poked fun at women “allowed” to play baseball during World War II. They claimed that the “privileged” male ballplayers, who “get” to play the game for a living, were making fun of less popular women’s baseball and demanded that the Mets be forced to support initiatives that bring more girls into the game as an apology.
They also claimed that forcing the dressed-up rookies to fetch coffee and snacks reinforced the Patriarchal and gender-specific social norm that women should be subservient to their male colleagues. One blogger even compared the cross-dressing to blackface
Aside from skirts, the policy also bans any costumes that might be considered offensive and prohibits teams from donning outfits that might give rise to claims of “cultural appropriation.” There’s no word on whether this blanket rule now applies to the Cleveland Indians or Atlanta Braves or Pittsburgh Pirates mascots.