Under Armour to Mar MLB Jerseys
Under Armour to Mar MLB Jerseys
It started innocuously enough, with a sign on the outfield wall. And soon there were three or four. Before you knew it, there was advertising behind home plate, rotating inning by inning.
Some people loved the throwback nature of the signage — it reminded them of Ebbetts Field (with its Schaeffer beer ad) or the Polo Grounds (with its Chesterfield cigarette ad) — harkening back to days when ballparks weren’t multi-use and had incredible character.
Then, 1992, we woke up to find the MLB logo on the back of our big-leaguers’ caps. No matter, it represented the game that we love, and it was a small logo near the base of the neck.
A couple of years ago that same logo made its way to the back belt loop of MLB pants. As an aside, you always knew when a player replaced his “gamers” with an old pair, as the logo was noticeably absent.
It took more than twenty years, but creep continued. Beginning with last season’s playoffs, much to the chagrin on Phil Hecken and Paul Lukas, New Era placed their logo right there on the temple. Which begs the question: Is no place sacred?
Since the snowball had already started rolling, the powers-that-be decided to simply get out of the way. Which led to the announcement made at this week’s Winter Meetings that will forever alter the sartorial arc of Major League uniforms. Beginning in 2020, the front of Big League jerseys will be desecrated with advertising.
For years we have discussed the blurred lines between amateurs and professionals. In that context, we normally discuss money — money paid (or not) to athletes. But one way the lines are not blurry at all is in licensing. Whether you work for Boston College or the Boston Red Sox, whether you draw a check from San Diego State or the San Diego Padres, you are looking to maximize licensing revenue. And, as such, you now make your uniforms, well, uniform.
Starting in 2020, MLB uniforms will look no different than college uniforms. And that isn’t just a shame, it is downright sad. There are few pieces of iconography in our world left unperturbed by commercialization and advertising. To be clear, I am not a “get off my lawn” guy, and have been perfectly okay with the inundation of advertising in ballparks across the country (although I could do without the ads on the foul pole), but do we really need to mar the front of a baseball jersey?
Once Under Armour begins outfitting Major League teams (including base layers and outerwear), their logo will be front and (off) center, on the right chest of every Big Leaguer.
We have known for some time that UA won the licensing right to MLB uniforms (Majestic has been providing uniforms since 2005). But it wasn’t until the current meetings in Maryland (UA’s home state) that we learned where that logo would reside. According to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, having the logo on the front of the uniform rather than the sleeve more than doubled the license fee. While we don’t know the actual deal terms (they have yet to be disclosed), we can affirmatively state that there is a price tag on the integrity of the game.
For over 100 years fans have gone to the Bronx to see Yankee pinstripes. Beginning in 2020, their favorite players will wear a version of the jersey shown at the top of this article.
The Braves have had some version of tomahawk on their jerseys since 1945. This is what that will look like in 2020:
The Giants (both in New York and in San Francisco) had their name on at least one of their uniforms since 1947. Starting in 2020, they will look like this:
Baseball has been criticized in many circles for being anachronistic, being too tied to its past. There is consternation that basketball and football are better at appealing to a new generation of fans. That, no doubt, was the impetus for this deal. Being affiliated with Bryce Harper, Steph Curry, Cam Newton, and Jordan Spieth will help attract a younger audience. But, do they have to sully the Major League uniform?
Because what is depicted above are just a guess, I remain optimistic. I truly hope that Under Armour has the modesty and humility, and MLB has the integrity and humanity, to make it a raised logo that appears in the same colorway as the uniform. That would still give UA prominent real estate without adversely affecting (too much) the team logos that have been in place — unscathed — for generations.