No sooner had MLB owners implemented a lockout than MLB.com and each of the individual team websites had scrubbed all images and content related to current players. The initial assumption had been that name, image, and likeness rights were part of the CBA and thus the league had to remove everything for legal purposes, but experts don’t believe that’s the case.
In fact, it may be little more than a thinly veiled act of pettiness.
Evan Drellich of The Athletic has covered the CBA negotiations as well as anyone and his joint effort with Stephen J. Nesbitt and Mike Vorkunov goes into great detail on why MLB made this move. Or rather, it goes into theories on why. Rob Manfred would only confirm that it was a legal issue and a league spokesperson said the actions were taken on advice of legal counsel, but no one else seems to be able to find legitimate cause.
“It’s a little bit of a mystery why they think this is somehow required legally,” Jason Wojciechowski, a lawyer and former editor at Baseball Prospectus, told The Athletic. “I don’t know what aspect of the law they think they’d be in violation of. As a union lawyer, my suspicion is that’s cover. But on the other hand, cover for what?”
One lawyer who spent 45 years with the National Labor Relations Board, including time as a regional director, said he couldn’t think of anything to support MLB’s legal advice. Another wondered whether it could be a matter of punishing or aggravating players, though a league spokesperson denied that was the case.
When you think about it, though, it sure feels like something an out-of-touch boss or teacher might do to punish a group they perceive to be egotistical prima donnas. I mean, there is some serious “How do you do, fellow kids” energy at play here. Just look at the online shop.
And before you go thinking the removal of current players’ jerseys is a sign that maybe the league is serious about legal ramifications, consider that you can still purchase those jerseys at team-owned stores. And before you go thinking that’s just a matter of selling through existing stock, consider that you can buy a Marcus Stroman jersey from the Cubs store immediately adjacent to Wrigley Field.
As much as I enjoy bagging on Manfred and the owners, it’ll be really nice to do so for something other than locking the players out and scrubbing their likenesses from the internet.