MLB Ballpark “Dress Codes” Set Bad Precedent

These days, following your favorite team from afar is easier than ever. What are team’s to do when opposing fans show up at their park?

With the ability to follow any baseball team’s beat writer on Twitter, the availability of TV packages like MLB Extra Innings, and the luxury of buying the same merchandise that’s sold in any teams’ souvenir shop at the ballpark through the web, being a fan of a team other than the one that’s geographically closest to you is probably easier than it’s ever been.

And with professional sports franchises becoming increasingly more public-relations conscious these days, if and how a team deals with the influx of opposing fans in their own ballpark is something that might be looked at more, especially in light of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ recently-rescinded policy on what fans can and cannot wear in a certain part of Chase Field.

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By now, the situation that has percolated on and off in Phoenix over the past few years has had it’s key moments well documented.

Early in the 2013 season, a large group of Los Angeles Dodgers fans from Yuma, Arizona paid over $3,000 to rent the “Batters Box Suite,” at Chase Field. While the price might sound steep, it includes in-seat food and beverage service, concierge service, and VIP parking passes, among other goodies. When you spread the cost out over 20 diehard baseball fans (the number of seats the suite has), it actually is a small sacrifice for such an experience.

But after the large group of Dodgers fans rented the box, made the three-hour trek from Yuma to Phoenix and had gained access to it, D-backs owner Ken Kendrick personally visited the box and asked the group to either move or change out of their Dodgers apparel. Arizona Sports reported that, according to another sports blog, Kendrick was seen “pointing his finger, raising his voice and frustratedly flipping his arms in the air” towards the group.

Fast forward now to last Sunday, in what appeared to be a much friendlier exchange then the April 2013 incident, you could see someone in a red polo and slacks in the suite as a Dodgers fan is putting on a D-backs jersey to cover up his LA apparel.

Dbacks Fan

NBC Sports was able to get a statement from the organization regarding this incident. They said that they had nothing to do with it and that they ask all fans sitting there to either wear “neutral colors” or D-backs gear, which the team would provide, because of it’s visibility to the television audience.

According to Arizona Sports’ April 2013 report, the Yuma group claims that they were never told of such a policy.

It’s happened more than in Phoenix

Laurence Levy is a 58-year-old attorney from Miami. He’s a diehard sports fan, especially Marlins fan, but why do I mention his name? Because you might know him better as “Marlins Man,” the Miami superfan that has been spotted behind home plate on TV at a number of World Series games (and other non-baseball sporting events), wearing his orange Miami Marlins gear. If anyone knows what the group from Yuma had to deal with when they encountered D-backs management, it would be him.

Marlins Man

According to the Kansas City Star, last October during the World Series in Kansas City, Marlins Man was approached by stadium officials and was asked that he either cover up the Marlins name and logo or change seats… He refused to give up his seat that he paid $8,000 for. And that was after the Royals tried to entice him with World Series souvenirs and even his own private suite.

Marlins Man made a statement last week on Twitter about the Diamondbacks’ now defunct policy, calling it a violation of free speech.

The future of “dress codes”

Whether you agree or disagree with these “dress codes,” make no mistake about it, baseball is a business and an owner has the right to run his business any way he sees fit. But baseball teams are also civic institutions and while we can all agree that obscene attire shouldn’t be allowed into any ballpark, the micromanaging of every fan’s clothing is a bad precedent, even so much to the point that ESPN’s Buster Olney said this past week that MLB should step in and put an end to these types of policies.

The Diamondbacks told The Arizona Republic this past week that they have eliminated their policy on fan attire behind home plate, but how long will it be until this issue rears it’s head again in another city, and how will it be dealt with at that time?

Let’s just hope this is the last of these incidents.

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