Lockout Latest: MLB Players Troll the League on Social Media After It Removes Player Names & Faces From Merchandise & Site
For the first time since the 1994-95 season, Major League Baseball and its players union failed to come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. This has led to a work stoppage and some social media bantering between the league and its players.
While other leagues, including the NBA and NFL have had similar work stoppages over the past decade, MLB took the work stoppage a step further by removing player photos and news from its website for “legal reasons involving player likeness.”
“Until a new agreement is reached, there will be limitations on the type of content we display,” MLB’s statement read. “As a result, you will see a lot more content that focuses on the game’s rich history. Once a new agreement is reached, the up-to-the minute news and analysis you have come to expect will continue as usual.”
The change occurred almost exactly at midnight, right when the previous collective bargaining agreement expired, leading the league to decide to lock out its players, freeze transactions and indefinitely suspend the Rule 5 Draft.
Players took umbrage to the bizarre removal of their photos by retaliating on social media and removing their own profile pictures in an attempt to mock the move from the league. Some changed their Twitter avatars to the blank silhouette faces which the league is presently using on its roster pages, adding the caption, “#NewProfilePic.”
Trevor Williams and Trevor May of the New York Mets were among the first players to change their profile pictures following the MLB website change. Jameson Taillon of the New York Yankees also followed suit, and expressed concern about no longer being able to work directly with the team physical therapists as a result of the lockout. Taillon is currently rehabbing from a season-ending ankle injury.
Several other players changed their avatar to the blanks, including Chicago White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito, Seattle Mariners shortstop JP Crawford, San Diego Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove and Mets closer Edwin Diaz.
The league also scrapped player names and faces from promotional aspects of the site. For example, the Los Angeles Angels changed one of their Shohei Ohtani giveaways to the generic title of “Historic Season Bobblehead” and the St. Louis Cardinals changed the name of a Nolan Arenado jersey giveaway to “Adult Cardinals Third Baseman Jersey” — to ensure the complete removal of names, images and likeness from marketing materials.
Teams decided to force the confrontation over CBA terms during the offseason, rather than risk players walking out during the summer, as they did in the prior work stoppage. Players and owners had successfully reached four consecutive agreements without a work stoppage, but they have been accelerating toward a clash for more than two years.
“We believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season,” League Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote in a letter to fans. “We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time. This defensive lockout was necessary because the players’ association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive.”
Talks that started last Spring ended Wednesday after a brief session of mere minutes with the sides far apart on dozens of key economic issues. Management’s negotiators left the union’s hotel about nine hours before the deal lapsed at 11:59 p.m. EST.
“This drastic and unnecessary measure will not affect the players’ resolve to reach a fair contract,” union head Tony Clark said in a statement. “We remain committed to negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement that enhances competition, improves the product for our fans, and advances the rights and benefits of our membership.”
This stoppage began 30 days after Atlanta’s World Series win capped a complete season following a pandemic-shortened 2020, played in empty ballparks. The lockout’s immediate impacts were a memo from MLB to clubs freezing signings, the cancellation of next week’s annual winter meetings in Orlando, Florida, and banishing players from team workout facilities and weight rooms.
The union demanded change following anger over a declining average salary, middle-class players forced out by teams concentrating payroll on the wealthy, and veterans jettisoned in favor of lower-paid youth, especially among clubs tearing down their rosters to rebuild.
It appears that the lockout and the labor disputes will continue through the winter with both sides blaming each other for a lack in progress. However, based on the league’s immediate reaction, don’t expect to see the faces of the league’s players on MLB platforms any time soon.