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Major League Baseball and its players association announced an agreement Thursday to reduce the color restrictions placed on cleats, starting in the 2019 MLB season.
Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com provided details of the deal, which included the elimination of the 51 percent rule that forced footwear to feature more than half of the team’s primary color, and passed along a statement from commissioner Rob Manfred about the change:
“Major League Baseball and its clubs recognize the desire of players to have more flexibility in this area and are pleased to announce the loosening of regulations that will permit more personalized and stylized footwear. We believe that this agreement strikes the appropriate balance between the shared goal of permitting players to express their individuality while maintaining reasonable restrictions on shoe colors and designs.”
Although MLB allowed some flexibility during its annual players’ weekend, when the game’s stars wore jerseys with nicknames rather than their last name, it otherwise strictly enforced the cleat rules as part of its uniform guidelines.
In May, Chicago Cubs right fielder Ben Zobrist posted a message on Instagram after he received a letter from MLB about the potential for being fined if he continued to wear black cleats:
“For the last two years, I have worn black spikes exclusively at Wrigley Field for Day games to pay homage to the history of our great game, and now I am being told I will be fined and disciplined if I continue to wear them. When I was a kid, I was inspired by highlights of the greats such as Ernie Banks and Stan Musial in the 1950s-60s and was captured by the old uniforms and all black cleats with flaps.”
The new agreement gives players an enormous amount of additional freedom and delegates most of the power to teams to decide what’s allowable, per Castrovince.
“Players may wear shoes displaying, in any proportion: the colors black, white or gray; any colors displayed on the player’s uniform (and certain variations of those colors); and any additional colors designated by the player’s club,” according to the deal.
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said the union is looking forward to seeing the players’ “creativity and individuality on the field in 2019.”