I’m both a little surprised that this has to be said and also surprised that it wasn’t made clear before: as of next season, Major League Baseball (MLB) will ban the hazing practice of forcing rookie players to wear drag.
MLB announced a policy this Tuesday targeting an end to the tradition of veteran baseball players forcing their rookie teammates to dress up as women. This new regulation bans “requiring, coercing or encouraging” rookies from “wearing costumes that may be offensive to individuals based on their race, sex, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristic.”
In what’s become a hazing tradition, rookie players would arrive at practice to find outlandish costumes like cheerleading uniforms waiting for them and then be expected to buy coffee for teammates wearing them.
With the advent of social media (which has “unfortunately publicized a lot of the dressing up of the players,” said Paul Misfud, MLB vice president), the tradition that goes back years has come under renewed criticism.
“Those kind of things which in our view were insensitive and potentially offensive to a number of groups [have been banned],” Misfud told the AP.
The ban will still apply even if rookie players want to participate in the practice. “A player’s actual or perceived willingness to participate in prohibited conduct, does not excuse the activity from being considered a violation of the policy,” reads the policy.
Several players and LGBT organizations have come out against the ritual.
The Detroit Tigers made their rookies dress up like lingerie football players and play a game of two-hand touch before boarding a plane to Minnesota in 2014
“Requiring rookies to dress in feminine presenting clothing like wigs, dresses, and bikinis sends a strong and dangerous message that being a girl, woman or feminine is somehow less than, and something to be mocked,” said Hudson Taylor, head of Athlete Ally.
“Regardless of intent, as long as professional athletes participate in hazing of this kind, they will be continuing to perpetuate a culture that isolates, excludes, and marginalizes the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and female athletes.”
“Times have changed,” said Dave Prouty, MLB union attorney. “There’s a certain conduct we have to be conscious of.”