MLB has done it again -- taken what could have been a nice tribute, done quietly and in a classy way by one of its teams -- and turned it into a firestorm of protest.
The New York Mets wanted to wear NYPD and NYFD caps in tribute to the first responders who were honored before Sunday night's game with the Chicago Cubs. However, the New York Times reports that MLB denied the Mets permission:
“I think it’d be a nice gesture,” said Josh Thole, the Mets’ player representative. “What are they going to do, fine us? I don’t know.”
As he spoke, Thole gestured to a television screen showing a football game between the Giants and the Washington Redskins and pointed out that players and coaches on the sidelines at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., were wearing similar caps. He said he would confer with his teammates and coaches.
Minutes later he returned and said the Mets would follow orders and wear their regular caps during the game.
During the ESPN telecast, it was noted that MLB indicated they didn't want to set a "precedent" by allowing the wearing of non-standard caps. However, when the Mets came back to play 10 years ago, they ignored a similar order, according to then-Mets player Todd Zeile:
Todd Zeile, the Mets player rep in '01, who is on hand at Citi Field for Sunday's remembrance ceremony, recently recalled the Mets ignoring MLB's order back then.
"Because the games were called on 9/11, we went back to Pittsburgh before we actually played a game in New York," Zeile said. "At that time we had been impacted by meeting with the families of the rescue workers. And so we had hats and T-shirts that we wanted to wear under our jerseys and on our heads during the game. And I can remember MLB saying we could do it as a tribute at the beginning, but we had to put our regular hats on for the rest of the game.
"The quote was attributed to me that I said, 'They're going to have to pry them off our heads if they think we're going to take those off.' But the quote was really attributed to me because I was the player rep. It was really a collective feeling from everybody in the clubhouse, and (manager) Bobby (Valentine) included, that, 'Hey, we're wearing these out there as a tribute. This is not some trivial, novel little sign and gesture. This is a tribute. And we're going to wear these hats until we can't wear them anymore, until they're ripped off our heads.' That was the feeling we had toward New York. There was a unity there."
However, there is a crack in the foundation, according to ESPN's Buster Olney:
David Wright becomes the first Met player to wear an unsanctioned cap, in the dugout. He's wearing sanctioned hat as he takes field for 3rd
The Mets are wearing this official alternate cap during Sunday night's game, which may explain MLB's position. You can buy one for $36.99, and the page says:
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to:
9/11 Memorial and Museum
Flight 93 Memorial
That's all well and good, but in this case, given the strong feelings of the players involved in New York, perhaps MLB could have relaxed its edict. All they've done tonight is buy themselves an awful lot of bad publicity.