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As MLB Owners and Union Behave Like Spoiled Children, Uni Ads Become Bargaining Chip

As the negotiations between MLB owners and players have progressed recently, one thing that’s been taken pretty much as a given is that the new collective bargaining agreement, whenever it finally comes together, will include a provision for uniform ads (like the Ford helmet ads, shown at right, that several teams wore for games played in Mexico in 2019).

One reason this has been viewed as a fait accompli is that both sides already agreed to go ahead with uni ads for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Although that ended up not happening (read that last link for an explanation of why), it’s been widely understood by insiders that this was just a temporary reprieve and that uni ads would likely arrive as part of the new labor deal in 2022.

Sure enough, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported on Feb. 17 that the players’ union had agreed during the current negotiations to go ahead with the owners’ request for uni ads (and also expanded playoffs). The following day, New York Times columnist Tyler Kepner wrote, “And starting in 2022, teams will stitch advertising patches to game jerseys.” Four days after that, Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci wrote, “Except for advertising patches on uniforms and the DH in the National League, baseball will look the same [under the new labor agreement].” I found it striking that Kepner and Verducci both stated this as a certainty, rather than hedging a bit with terms like “highly probable” or “expected to happen,” even though the labor negotiations were still a long way from finished.

And now it appears that uni ads have become a bargaining chip. As you may have heard, MLB said yesterday that if a deal is not reached by next Monday, regular season games will be canceled from this season’s schedule and will not be made up with doubleheaders, meaning players will lose pay as a result. According to AP writer Ronald Blum, the union responded like so:

The union told MLB that if games are missed and salaries are lost, clubs should not expect players to agree to management’s proposals to expand the postseason and to allow advertisements on uniforms and helmets.

Just to be clear: The union is fine with uni ads, because some of the ad revenue will end up in their pockets. But the union also knows that the owners really want uni ads, so the union is trying to create leverage by using their approval power over the ads as a bargaining chip.

In the end, MLB uni advertising will probably happen, because both sides want it and it’s a relatively small issue compared to the other things that are holding up the negotiations. But in light of yesterday’s development, and given that both sides clearly can’t stand each other and are behaving like spoiled 12-year-olds, it still seems vaguely possible that they could strike a deal in which uni ads fall out of the equation due to some combination of suspicion, resentment, and spite. That appears to be our best hope.

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New Bulletin article: Riddell’s new Axiom helmet — the latest leap in football helmet engineering — launched last month and will be showing up on football fields for spring workouts, NFL OTAs, and the 2022 regular season. For my latest Bulletin piece, I tried to get beyond the Axiom’s press release hype by doing a lengthy interview with some of the higher-ups at Riddell. I learned a lot along the way and I think you will too.

My premium subscribers can read the article here. If you haven’t yet subscribed, you can do that here (you’ll need a Facebook account in order to pay). If you want more info on what you’ll get for your money, you can find that here. And if the Facebook requirement is a dealbreaker, email me and I’ll let you know about non-Facebook payment options and possible workarounds. Thanks!

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It’s all in the wrist: Several members of the U.S. Women’s National Team (including Catarina Macario, shown above) wore “Protect Trans Kids” wristbands for yesterday’s SheBelieves Cup game against Iceland, which took place in Texas. The move was in response to reports earlier in the day that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had called for gender-affirming care for trans kids to be treated as child abuse.

By coincidence, yesterday was also the date of the Dallas Stars’ long-scheduled Pride Night, so the team’s pregame Pride jerseys took on extra resonance in the wake of Abbott’s stance:

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A quarter-century of ’Canes: The Hurricanes yesterday announced that they’ll mark their 25th anniversary next season with a new logo, which is shown at right (and which you can click to enlarge). Normally I’d just put this in the Ticker, but it’s such an interesting design, with such a clever use of negative space, that I decided to give it a bigger showcase.

Some additional thoughts:

• While I do like the design, the ’Canes already had a 20th-anniversary logo just five years ago. Come on, people — enough is too much!

• It’s not yet clear, at least to me, if this logo will be worn as a jersey patch, as a helmet decal, or what. (The 20th-anniversary mark was worn on the back of the helmet.)

• This seems really early to be releasing next season’s anniversary logo, no?

• It’s interesting that they didn’t use the word “anniversary” (or “season,” or “years,” or anything else) in either the 20th- or 25th-anniversary logos. They did use “anniversary,” however, in their 10th-anniversary logo back in 2007.

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The Ticker
By Paul

Indigenous Appropriation News: A newly introduced bill in the Nebraska state legislature would incentivize schools to scrap their Native American team identities by providing $200,000 per school to cover redesign costs (from Brett Baker).

Baseball News: New uni set this season for Houston Baptist (from Ignacio Salazar). … Yesterday’s Ticker noted that the Yankees are retiring No. 21 for Paul O’Neill. This article discusses how this move will remove O’Neill from the interesting group of players whose numbers are unofficially retired — i.e., still technically available but not issued.

Football News: Former Bengals QB Boomer Esiason has been reunited with his 1994 Pro Bowl jersey (from Steve Dodell). … Lane Tech High School in Chicago is renaming its field after Hall of Famer and Lane alum Fritz Pollard (from Kary Klismet). … Cowboys QB Dak Prescott’s girlfriend had a custom jacket made from parts of one of his jerseys (from Chuck Church).

Hockey News: The Caps gave coach Peter Laviolette a commemorative stick yesterday to mark his 700th career coaching win (thanks, Jamie). … New logo set for the NHL Global Series (thanks, Brinke).

Basketball News: Interesting interview with sportswriter Jeff Pearlman about the upcoming HBO treatment of his book on the Showtime-era Lakers. Key quote from Pearlman: “Early on I got a good feeling [about HBO]. Someone called me and asked ‘Do you know what material was used on the summer league uniforms that Magic Johnson wore back in ’79? Do you have any pictures of those uniforms? We really want to get it right.’ I remember going to the set, and they recreated the 1979 NBA basketballs. They actually remade the balls using the same material. You could tell these guys were serious” (from Matthew Edwards). … Interesting detail regarding one of the new NBA leaks: The Blazers’ new City design is apparently based on the carpeting at Portland International Airport, which has received lots of attention over the years (from Tom O’Grady). … Really good Reddit thread on the explosion of ads during NBA telecasts (from Kyle Campbell). … Indiana men’s will wear this “Honoring Black Excellence” uniform tonight (from Darrell Frazier).

Soccer News: Reader Josh Readshaw has assessed all the newly released MLS shirts. … The rest of these are from Kary Klismet: Senegal has opened its new national stadium. … Chelsea will be allowed to wear the FIFA Club World Cup badge on its Premier League jerseys for the remainder of the season. … New kits for San Antonio FC of the USL Championship.

Grab Bag: Syracuse retired women’s lacrosse player Katie Rowan Thomson’s No. 21 last weekend (from Michael Hochman). … The rest of these are from Kary Klismet: There’s a new African American Sports Hall of Fame in Lexington, Ky. … The Alfa Romeo F1 team ran its car with a camouflage livery during test runs, ahead of the official 2022 livery unveiling this weekend. … The logo for the 78th U.S. Women’s Open golf tourney, slated to take place at Pebble Beach in 2023, has been unveiled.

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I’m seeing my mom today, so I’ll be a bit slower than usual to respond to emails. Thanks in advance for your patience. — Paul

Comments (48)

    Ads on MLB uniforms. Horrible. And we the fans lose out as usual.

    The NBA is now using airport carpet to make uniforms? Make the insanity stop. Please, just go back to white home, color away, and the occasional alternate/throwback.

    Maybe the Canes are acknowledging that as a winter sport, they play most of their games on Eastern Standard Time, not Daylight?

    Paul, regarding the Carolina Hurricanes’ 25th anniversary logo, the early debut apparently is due to its use in season ticket renewal packets that were sent out recently.

    Boomer Esiason’s 1994 Pro Bowl jersey was No. 8 (instead of No. 7) because John Elway was wearing No. 7. Not sure what year the NFL started letting multiple players wear the same number in the Pro Bowl.

    I always appreciated the no duplicate numbers in the Pro Bowl. Was interesting to see which numbers the players would use if their number was taken.

    Expanded playoffs, universal DH, uniform ads.
    Do the fans want any of these things? No, of course not. Does this make more money for billionaire and millionaires? Yes.
    Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered comes to mind.
    All sports seems to be leaning into maximizing profit over maintaining the quality of the game and thus, fan interest. It may be incremental, but eventually I think these shifts in all sports to maximize revenue will see reverse trends as the product suffers and people tune out. Overexposure and product fatigue are real things.

    I’m not so sure the average fan has any problem with the universal DH or expanded playoffs.

    In any case, they’ve found a new way to maintain fan interest: betting apps.

    Not defending any of this. Just saying that it’s not as simple as “fans don’t want it so they’ll tune out.”

    For me, betting apps are a way of generating DISinterest from me. I have zero interest in sports betting whatsoever, and I am long past sick and tired of the pervasiveness of the ads for these apps. I feel like they’re trying to tell me there’s something wrong with me for *not* “putting some skin in the game”, for which I have many unkind, rude, and downright obscene words to direct at these gambling operations.

    Now, I just want to say that if any of YOU want to get down, if that makes you happy, then great! I am not here to take that away from you. I just don’t want you to try to convince me that it’s something *I* should do.

    Sorry for coming off so sour about it, but that’s just how I feel.

    Like you, Rob, I have zero interest in betting apps. But we appear to be in the minority.

    Again: Not defending it — simply explaining that it’s a big part of the industry’s current business plan, and that you can’t discuss “maintaining the fan’s interest” without taking this new factor into account.

    I disagree with you about Universal DH, the articles I have read about it has fan polling at 70% to 80% of fans polled want Universal DH.

    I think expanded playoffs is a way to keep the average fan more engaged longer into the season. As long as their team is still in the running for a playoff spot.

    Uniform ads as much as I dislike them, I don’t think they move the needle for the average fan. I have always been curious on how ads got so commonplace on Soccer/Football jerseys. And the jersey ads didn’t seem to hurt Soccer popularity. Same with F1/NASCAR/IndyCar racing.

    The polls I’ve seen show more than half the fans DON’T want the lunacy of the DH expanded to the NL.

    The real problem with baseball is how to maintain or even get attention from (not only younger) fans used to (and more and more preferring) a 30 second football snaps or a 24 second basketball shotclocks over an average of 3.5 hours of baseball per game. The bickering over ads and the DH in the NL is ignoring this overall image problem of the game. Personally I could do without uniform ads and I love to see pitchers (attempt to) hit a baseball. No time limits is one of the many charms of the game of baseball. But for (what I guess) a majority of fans, advertisers and media it is a different matter. They have a need for speed.

    I agree that downtime and unnecessarily long games hurt MLB considerably. I would propose that the Three True Outcomes are just as damaging to the game.

    That to me is the issue. Pace of play. Neither DH nor expanded playoffs address the biggest thing they need to solve.
    I suppose as an NL city fan I am against the DH. Either way, I don’t think expanded playoffs or universal DH are really going to move the needle the way MLB wants them to for boosting fan interest. They aren’t the things fans complain about.
    And pace of play absolutely is detriment to them attracting younger fans, but they seem unwilling to fix that, even though there are easy fixes for it. At the same time they seem to think encouraging bat flipping, etc is really what younger fans want.
    I generally get the sense that MLB has less a focus on “what do people like about baseball, and how do we optimize that so more people will start watching” and more a sense of “what are other sports doing, how can we be more like them”.
    Perhaps just a grumpy-old-man-get-off-my-lawn take from me.

    Totally agree with you Greg! I am a Cub’s fan. I despise the idea of a DH in the NL. I have already started watching fewer and fewer non-Cubs games because of their SJW stance. I would imagine I will watch even fewer in the future once the DH is in place. MLB needs to create more fans to replace old fogeys like me who be dying off in the next 15-20 years. The first thing they need to do is fix the pace of play problem. Constant pitcher replacements (solution: maybe don’t allow new pitchers any practice pitches). Overly long at-bats. (solution: no time outs called and no stepping out of the batter’s box and fixing your helmet and gloves – especially when you didn’t even swing the bat). Just 2 of several steps they could take. I woulod imagine if you researched the last 10 years worth of Yankees-Red Sox games the average length of game is close to 4 hours.

    I’m with Matthew: I’m watching a lot fewer games if the abomination of the DH is expanded beyond the AL. And I doubt the addition of ever more gimmicks will add any fans for MLB.

    Adidas seems to be running this new template into the ground. I haven’t read any of the “story” behind these “honoring black excellence” uniforms, but there’s not a single thing about them that immediately screams “This is Black History Month!”

    Why do these uniforms even exist?

    FWIW, I’m black, and I’d love to see more teams/leagues incorporate something about black history into their unis. To date, only the Hawks and Grizzlies have really done this.

    At least my formative years occurred without uniform ads.

    Wonder if the Mets retiring former team leader and current announcer Keith Hernandez’s number influenced the timing of the Yankees doing the same for another leader turned announcer. O’Neill had a longer run than Keith in NYC and more titles.

    I was wondering the same thing, but the negative space used by adding South Carolina would not fit as nicely in the 25 as with only NC. And they do play in North Carolina.

    My thought exactly. I always assumed the Canes and the Panthers chose the regional name in a bid to win over the folks in South Carolina similar to the New England Patriots representing a multi-state area.

    I don’t think the Canes have ever really courted South Carolina as part of their “territory” Raleigh is a decent ways away from SC, and their goal song is Raise Up, which specifically calls out North Carolina.

    The Panthers make more sense, since Charlotte is right on the border, and they hold training camp at Wofford in South Carolina

    Right. Surely the name is a little bait to lay claim to the region. The Charlotte metro area straddles both state, and the Panthers thus easily lay claim to having fans in both, Raleigh certainly doesn’t. I think they are the Carolina Hurricanes also because Raleigh isn’t as high profile of a city compared to most big league cities, and perhaps that even more so than staking a regional claim, is why they chose to be called Carolina.
    Their flag logo also only creates NC in the negative space. So this certainly isn’t anything new for the team.

    The Winning Time trailer looks appetizing. The PDX carpet does not, even with its own wikipedia page and as a source of inspiration for a Trailblazers jersey.

    Paul, your Bulletin piece today is absolutely fascinating. As a Uni-Nerd, I think about the “these damn new helmets screw up the stripes and logos” issue from the get-go, but all the details and nuances with the safety features is so interesting (and downright confusing). I had to read the portion about the frigging facemasks three times before I understood, and you were explaining the SOB!

    As you state, safety is certainly the most important part; it’s also the part we casual (and not so casual) fans don’t think much about when the season starts and people start knocking heads.

    Thanks for the great work, even if my head was spinning a little!

    Seconded. Really great read. As a player growing up and now coaching youth football this stuff is really of interest. If we are going to maintain football as it is going forward the safety features will need to trickle down so that parents will still feel comfortable letting their kids play. Good to read about continued innovation here.

    Every night I fall asleep designing/redesigning uniforms in my head. The NBA has made it impossible for me to do so with their league. I can only picture the standard uniform for a handful of teams.
    Thanks to growing up with Whitey (Herzog) Ball here in St. Louie, I’ve never been a huge fan of homeruns and batters striking out. I don’t want ads on their uniforms at all, but thankfully, I won’t ever see them.

    Look at the difference in size of the number 7 on Rod Gilbert’s shoulder and the #19 on Jean Ratelle’s shoulder:



    While the thought of uniform ads is horrible, it might provide an occasional synchronous moment… the “Ford” logo on the helmet would be amusing if worn by early 70’s outfielder Ted Ford (or Yankee pitcher Whitey Ford)… any others?


    Can’t help thinking the buying of ads on uniforms is going to lead to shameful instances of corporate theater; such as Team X selling Pepsi on their sleeve while Player Z has a personal contract with Coke.

    One for the next Indigenous Appropriation Watch: Fansided’s Atlanta baseball fan site has scrapped the name “Talking Chop” and will now be known as “Battery Power”. link

    I’m not sure I understand why the new name is any more relevant to Atlanta than to any other baseball team, but good to be rid of the old name IMO.

    The mixed development area around Truist Park is called The Battery Atlanta (or shortened by fans to “The Battery”)

    Speaking of ads, I’ve never seen a pop-up ad laid over another pop-up ad like the one that just appeared at the bottom of this page. I love uni-watch, and understand the need to make money for such great content, but this site has become what it derides in others. It’s worse than a minor league rink.

    Rather disappointing review of the new MLS shirts. I won’t bother making a list, but there’s inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and just plain weird taste present in almost every entry.

    Not uni-related, but certainly ad related: a stark example of just how ubiquitous advertisements are in our world, and how there are plenty of spaces where they shouldn’t exist, but somehow do anyway.


    Looks like Schalke also removed all of their jerseys from their online shop. All three kit sections just listing shorts and socks at this point. And no jersey customizing option either. I went to the site because I’d buy a jersey without the sponsor to support their decision to remove. Had a great experience in there at 2006 World Cup, despite USA getting pounded by the Czechs.

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