Cubs’ Ben Zobrist blasts MLB, asks league to lighten up on shoe color rule



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USA TODAY Sports sat down with the former MLB outfielder to discuss his current line of work.
USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Cubs second baseman/outfielder Ben Zobrist criticized the MLB’s uniform rules and shoe pattern restrictions as “ridiculous” in an Instagram post on Saturday, calling for the league to offer more “flexibility” so he can wear old-school black spikes that are not the same color as the Cubs. 

Zobrist said he received a letter from MLB informing him that he violated a rule requiring at least 51% of the exterior of a player’s shoes to be team colors. He broke the rule May 2 in the Cubs’ game against the Colorado Rockies when he wasn’t wearing blue or red. 

“For the last two years, I have worn black spikes exclusively at Wrigley Field for Day games to pay homage to the history of our great game, and now I am being told I will be fined and disciplined if I continue to wear them,” the Cubs veteran wrote before the Cubs’ game against the White Sox on Saturday. “When I was a kid, I was inspired by highlights of the greats such as Ernie Banks and Stan Musial in the 1950s-60s and was captured by the old uniforms and all black cleats with flaps.”

In the Instagram post, Zobrist included a picture of his cleats — all black New Balances and old-school PF Flyers to pay homage to the Sandlot character, “Benny the Jet.” He signed the post, “Sincerely, Ben Zobrist.” 

“I am curious as to why (the MLB) is spending time and money enforcing this now when they haven’t done it previously in the last year and beyond,” he wrote. “I have heard nothing but compliments from fans that enjoy the ‘old school’ look. Maybe there is some kid out there that will be inspired to look more into the history of the game by the ‘flexibility’ that I prefer in the color of my shoes.”

Zobrist isn’t the only player to be warned for violating the shoes rule and express their frustration on social media. The Cleveland Indians’ Mike Clevinger tweeted a letter he received from the MLB on Friday that said, in part: “we expect that you rectify this violation.” An hour later, Clevinger posted a photo of colorful shoes that appeared to be ones he had planned for Mother’s Day. 

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In a statement, the MLB suggested the rule was a collaborative decision made by the league and the player’s union. 

“We have shoe regulations that were negotiated with the union in the last round of bargaining,” the MLB said in a statement on Saturday. “If players have complaints about the regulations, they should contact their union which negotiated them. We have informed the union that we are prepared to negotiate rules providing players with more flexibility, and that issue is currently being discussed as part of a larger discussion about apparel and equipment.”

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