Because he’s been traded to the New York Yankees, Rougned Odor has to adopt the identity of a “clean-cut” American baseball player due to a policy that’s 48 years old.
Since 1973, the Yankees have maintained a ruling that their players must have their hair cut above their jersey collar, and they’re not permitted to wear beards. Yes, even today, in 2021, you can’t wear a beard with your Yankee pinstripes, even though facial hair is as common as mask-wearing at this stage.
The rule was implemented after long-time Yankees owner George Steinbrenner spotted what he deemed was the sloppy appearance of Thurman Munson during, of all things, the National Anthem performance before a game. It’s all starting to make sense now, isn’t it? You’re allowed a mustache for religious reasons, but in 2021, people don’t wear only mustaches in the way they did five decades ago. How many movies, documentaries, or shows have you seen since where the resident creep has only a mustache?
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I mean, just look at this shit, no offense to Tony Zych. But c’mon. You think this looks better? And more “professional”?
It’s arguably the dumbest policy in all of sports, dripping with the organizational arrogance of the New World Order in the Monday Night Wars. And seeing all of your workers as “the same” is not a good thing. It’s as bad as telling a person of color that you don’t “see color.” You should generally respect people for who they are, not who you want them to be.
Restricting the facial hair one could have in your organization is in the same class of wrong as not allowing Black women to wear twists in your offices. Or like when executives grow uncomfortable when the Latina reporter appears to be “too curvy.” It’s reflective of a forced set of ideals, that your way is the best way, which perfectly encapsulates how we’ve gotten to the current social justice stand-off between arguing sides in this country.
It’s one thing for the Miami Heat to have “Heat Culture,” which is built around hard work, being in ridiculously good shape compared to others in the NBA, and things in that regard. It’s another for the Yankees to restrict the individuality of their players as more people justifyingly seek empowerment and equality during a pivotal time in America. These are people, not property.
Remember what Steinbrenner said about Johnny Damon upon adding him from the Boston Red Sox, where Damon previously had long hair and a beard, delivered in typical villainous billionaire fashion: “He looks like a Yankee, he sounds like a Yankee, and he is a Yankee.”
It’s why Brian Wilson is to be commended for standing up against this rule, rooted in corporate favoritism and ideology that upholds the traditional “American way.” It’s why Andrew McCutchen, who was a Yankee for 30 games in 2018 (playoffs included), bashed the team’s policy previously. And it’s why David Price says he’d never play with them, citing his preferred individuality. Eight years later, he still hasn’t.
“I wouldn’t sign a long-term deal there. Those rules, that’s old-school baseball. I was born in ’85. That’s not for me. That’s not something I want to be a part of,” Price said in 2013.
So, now, the Venezuelan-born Odor now must shave a beard he’s clearly worked hard to grow to join an organization that clearly doesn’t want such expression in its ranks. Odor himself might not become an integral player of the Yankee roster judging by his production in recent seasons, though he is a fan favorite for obvious reasons; even still, the point remains. It’s beyond time for the Yankees’ facial hair policy to go, and if Major League Baseball is interested in doing things correctly, they should get this one right, too.