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Fanatics CEO Defends Their Role in MLB Uniform Rollout Debacle

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Good Saturday morning, Uni Watchers. I hope everyone has had a good week. Just when things seemed to be somewhat settling down with regard to the recent outrage over Nike’s new uniform template and player/fan/jersey collector backlash — covered on Uni Watch and other outlets for the past couple weeks, Fanatics CEO and founder Michael Rubin sought to defend the company’s role in the process.

Yesterday afternoon, at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Rubin declared Fanatics is unfairly being blamed for the fiasco.

“This is a little bit of a difficult position. We’re purely doing exactly as we’ve been told, and we’ve been told we’re doing everything exactly right. And we’re getting the s— kicked out of us.” Rubin said. For good measure, he added, “That’s not fun. Normally when I get beat up it’s because I actually did something wrong.”

The complaints have ranged from off-white home uniforms, to smaller NOBs, to see-through pants, to mismatched shades of gray between jerseys and pants, and more. Paul has covered all of these with aplomb, so I won’t repeat the complaints save to say they’re myriad. However, one article Paul penned a couple weeks ago presaged much of this, with one of the takeaways being “a lot of people seem to mistakenly believe that Fanatics is responsible for the new MLB uniform template.”

Apparently that message hadn’t gotten through to a lot of folks who feel Fanatics is indeed at fault for the new uniform designs and template, so Rubin felt compelled to emphasize that Fanatics is simply following orders.

“Nike designs everything. Hands us a spec and says, ‘Make this.’ We have made everything exactly to the spec, and Nike and baseball would say, ‘Yes, you’ve done everything we’ve asked you to do’,” Rubin stressed.

Aside from the very legitimate complaints about the new uniforms, Rubin feels there is always going to be an adjustment period when something new is introduced. “Part of changing a uniform is people get uncomfortable, and it takes time (to adjust).”

Since 2005 and until this season, MLB’s official uniforms have been supplied by Majestic Athletics. Fanatics purchased Majestic in 2017 and produced MLB uniforms out of Majestic’s factory. When Nike became MLB’s official uniform supplier in 2020, MLB uniforms were produced in the same Fanatics-owned Easton, Pa., factory where the league’s uniforms have been made since 2005, with the only change being the Nike swoosh affixed to the front of every jersey and back of every pair of pants. That all changed this year, with Nike redesigning all MLB uniforms and requiring Fanatics to make them according to the new specifications.

Although jerseys and pants had been slightly modified over the past two decades, nothing was as radical a change as the one Nike undertook for the 2024 season. Rubin believes that, even with all the supposed testing and research (and trial runs in the Minor Leagues and at last year’s All-Star game), more needed to be done to get the players’ sign-off.

“They got certain players on board, not all players on board,” Rubin said. “When you change something so old and so nostalgic, you need everyone to be on board with it.” As we’ve seen, those players who are under Nike contract seem to be far more accepting of the changes than others.

So it’s also simply getting used to changes as much as the very real complaints that have surfaced. Rubin also opined that in the future, players should have even more feedback regarding changes.

As noted above, Nike is working with MLB to address concerns. In a statement to The Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this week, Nike said, “We always put the athlete at the center of everything we do. We worked closely with MLB players, teams, and the league to create the most advanced uniforms in the history of MLB which are lighter and more flexible. The quality and the performance of our product is of the utmost importance to us. We will continue to work with MLB, the players, and our manufacturing partner to address player uniforms.”

Whether or not any of these concerns will result in changes to the uniforms by Opening Day is a question that has not yet been answered. Hopefully all parties can work together to address the complaints as quickly as possible.



Uniform Concepts and Tweaks

Time for more Uni Tweaks from the UW readership.

I hope you guys like this feature and will want to continue to submit your concepts and tweaks to me. If you do, Shoot me an E-mail (Phil (dot) Hecken (at) gmail (dot) com).

• • • • •
Today’s concepts come from Ryan Hoffmann.

Hi, Phil!

My name is Ryan Hoffmann, I’m a graphic designer from Wisconsin and have been a been a uni watch reader for many years. I really appreciate the legwork you guys have been putting in to bring us the latest information about the pending Denver Broncos uniform redesigns. In light of that, I’ve attached a few uni concepts I worked up based on the information we have so far.

I don’t know how accurate these will be once we see the official reveal, but I tried to stay as faithful as possible to the info that was given in several of the interviews Paul has conducted recently. I thought you and/or your readers might find it interesting. Regardless, I appreciate you taking the time to read this, and keep up the great work over at Uni Watch!

Thanks again,
Ryan H

• • • • •
OK readers (and concepters). If you have some tweaks or concepts, shoot ’em my way with a brief description of your creation and I’ll run ’em here.



Guess the Game from the Scoreboard

Guess The Game…

…From The Scoreboard

Today’s scoreboard comes from Ryan Paul.

The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I’ll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don’t know if I’ve ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).

Here’s the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date and location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):

Please continue sending these in! You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.



Guess the Game from the Uniform

Based on the suggestion of long-time reader/contributor Jimmy Corcoran, we’ve introduced a new “game” on Uni Watch, which is similar to the popular “Guess the Game from the Scoreboard” (GTGFTS), only this one asked readers to identify the game based on the uniforms worn by teams.

Like GTGFTS, readers will be asked to guess the date, location and final score of the game from the clues provided in the photo. Sometimes the game should be somewhat easy to ascertain, while in other instances, it might be quite difficult. There will usually be a visual clue (something odd or unique to one or both of the uniforms) that will make a positive identification of one and only one game possible. Other times, there may be something significant about the game in question, like the last time a particular uniform was ever worn (one of Jimmy’s original suggestions). It’s up to YOU to figure out the game and date.

Today’s GTGFTU comes from Jimmy Corcoran himself!

Good luck and please post your guess/answer in the comments below.



And finally...

…that’s all for the early post. I’ll have at least two more articles (plus the Ticker) this morning, so be sure to keep checking back.

Everyone have a good Saturday and I’ll catch you right back here tomorrow morning.



Comments (21)

    DePaul loses so often and to everyone, the scoreboard challenge today is ImPoSsIbLe.

    Giants played two good halves that entire season: One half against the Oilers, and the other against the Cardinals; the only two games they won in 1973. As a lifetime Giants fan, even the last ten years of futility doesn’t compare to how awful they were in the mid 1960s to the late 1970s.

    Giants vs. Oilers. September 16th, 1973, last home game for the Giants at Yankee Stadium and first time they played the Oilers.

    The Giants also played at Yankee Stadium the following week when they tied the Eagles 23-23. Then the season fell apart.

    About the Broncos concept: pants definitely need a stripe, especially to match the helmet.

    People might have more sympathy for Fanatics if their consumer products and customer service weren’t such garbage. Rubin is too obtuse to see that.

    I hope the Broncos don’t have the mono pant/socks look like most of these. Of course it won’t matter, since the players will do what they want with impunity.

    I happened to attend that GTGFTU Giants-Oilers game in Sept. 1973 as a guest of a Giants season ticket holder. Seats were in the right field bleachers on a beautiful sunny day for football, one that really captured the contrasting uniforms.

    Nike designs everything. Hands us a spec and says, ‘Make this.’ We have made everything exactly to the spec, and Nike and baseball would say, ‘Yes, you’ve done everything we’ve asked you to do’,” Rubin stressed.

    An artful tossing under the bus, this. At some point when you’re doing the specs for the NHL uniforms, remember this lesson and do a hell of a lot more work on them than Nike seem to have done with baseball.

    1. Re: Fanatics – if their reputation for producing overly priced hot garbage, the public might be more forgiving, or at least understanding. But when you put out trash, charge a king’s ransom and seem genuinely unsympathetic to the complaints of your customer base, you invite this – even if the criticism is misdirected in this one case.
    2. Re: Broncos – this set solves one problem with the current set, the weird pants stripes and jersey panels. It left the other problems intact – the clunky number font, the current logo, the overuse of navy, the conspicuous de-emphasizing of orange – and created new ones – the plain white helmet, the sky blue, and a lot of monochrome. Well done but this is not the improvement the Broncos need.

    The Giants – Oilers game marked the first time Giants game in New York was televised locally after the blackout rule was lifted in early 73. It was on WNBC 4 with Curt Gowdy and Al Derogatis on the call. They made a huge deal out of the local broadcast. And yes, it was the highlight of the season. There was talk of Norm Snead morphing into the 2nd coming of YA Title after Snead’s All Pro season of 72 (note: that didn’t happen).

    I picked this Giants_ Oilers game because of #33 Benny Johnson, he played on the Bell with my father. I used to tell him he wore his socks like Drew Pearson and he said you mean Drew Pearson wears his socks like me Prince! I guess Benny was right, since he had been in the NFL longer than Drew. Benny lived in the same hotel as my father with the Bell. He was a great guy RIP.

    And here I thought you picked it because the viewer is saved (mostly) ftom seeing the one flaw of those Oilers uniforms…that being the gray facemasks.
    Your reason for showcasing this game is poignant – great back story!

    Benny wore #38 in the first game against the Storm but then switched to #0, always thought he looked cool. I didn’t like the name Prince , most of the guys called me Jimmy or kid, but the DB’s called me Prince? I asked Benny why you call me that, and he said because your father is the King. As a kid I didn’t know about that stuff, so it didn’t make sense to me at the time.

    There were no flaws to that Oilers uniform.
    Best. Uniform. Ever.

    As much as I dislike Fanatics, based on everything I’m hearing/reading re: the MLB uniforms, it really seems like the primary blame is with MLB, and secondarily Nike.

    They say there is always a period of adjustment if they make changes to uniforms. I say at the professional level, for the amount of money that gets invested in both uniforms and the league in general, the expectation should be that when something is changed, particularly something big, the new thing should be something that makes the PLAYERS say, “yes. This is better” not “well maybe I’ll get used to it eventually”. And if it is something that is truly better for some reason but doesn’t immediately feel that way to players, they should be given as much time to adjust to the change BEFORE they start meaningful work. Spring training is important to players and coaches, they have more important things to work on than “adjusting to the jerseys”.

    The finger pointing in the uniform debacle is getting ridiculous. I cannot imagine that Fanatics has no say in the design and manufacturing process.

    Has ‘I was just following orders’ ever been a good excuse? Fanatics and Rubin have been so bad for the sports merchandise community its laughable that they’ve made their way into on-field product.

Comments are closed.