It’s all fun and games until, well, it’s not. That’s the attitude that Major League Baseball currently has when it comes to the rookie hazing rituals of its teams. MLB created an anti-hazing and anti-bullying policy that addresses a years-long practice of forcing rookies to dress up in costumes as a hazing ritual. Over the years, players’ costumes have included all sorts of female roles (fictional and not), like Wonder Woman, Hooters waitresses, or perhaps members of the U.S women’s gymnastics team. But no more. According to the new policy (per the AP), there will be no “requiring, coercing or encouraging” players “dressing up as women or wearing costumes that may be offensive to individuals based on their race, sex, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender identify or other characteristic.”
It’s unclear exactly when the practice started, but the AP documents incidents involving the hazing of rookies via costuming going back to at least 1998. Other instances are more recent, like in 2012, when Bryce Harper and other incoming players on the Washington Nationals team wore red leotards,“in the style of Gabby Douglas and the U.S. women’s gymnastics team.” Over the years, the costuming has become more complex. Take, for instance, last year, when the Mets shared photos of players going to Starbucks dressed as the female players from the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own.” It’s the kind of experience some players have considered a form of bonding, according to the AP.
The growing visibility on social media of these practices across all sorts of teams led the MLB to look at anti-hazing policies enacted at the college level. “Although it hasn’t happened, you could sort of see how like someone might even dress up in black face and say, ‘Oh, no, we were just dressing up,’” MLB Vice-President Paul Misfud told the AP. And the practices haven’t been without their detractors, Mifsud said. “We’ve also understood that a number of players have complained about it.” For what it’s worth, players can still dress up in other non-offensive costumes (i.e. your favorite superhero Batman or Spider-Man).
And for any stickler worried about “tradition,” keep in mind this doesn’t mean every baseball rookie ritual is out the door. According to the AP, rookies might still have to walk across the street to get coffee for older players.