Money Makes MLB Go All “Bah Humbug” For Mother’s Day

Slugger pink bats

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports is slowly becoming one of our favorite baseball writers.

His column earlier this week introduced us to the widespread use of sunscreen by MLB pitchers. Passan’s most recent column introduces us to whole new controversy that has reared its ugly head this Mother’s Day weekend.

It has become a Mother’s Day Sunday tradition that major leaguers break out as many pink accessories as possible to show their support for breast cancer awareness and to pay homage to breast cancer survivors.  No accessory is more of a mainstay than the pink bat.

But apparently, not all pink bats are created equal.

Major League Baseball has banned the use of certain baseball bats produced by manufacturer MaxBat after ruling that the bats fail to comply with the league’s policy. That sounds reasonable enough, until one realizes that the league policy is the product of greed and the faux charity of a competitor.

League policy dictates that, while any manufacturer may produce pink bats for Mother’s Day, only Louisville Slugger pink bats may display the manufacturer’s name and/or logo on the bats’ labels. This exclusivity deal between the MLB and Louisville Slugger was born when the parent company of Louisville Slugger made a sizable donation to the league’s charitable partner, Susan G. Komen for a Cure.

In other words, Louisville Slugger agreed to make a big-time donation to baseball’s breast cancer awareness charitable partner, but conditioned that promise on baseball’s agreement that only Louisville Slugger’s name and logo would be seen on pink bats across the league on Mother’s Day.

Putting awareness up for sale in such a manner flies in the face of the definition of “charity”.

MaxBat had hoped to circumvent the league policy by producing standard colored bats with pink logos on the label for Mother’s Day. Here is what the MaxBat Mother’s Day bats look like.

pink MaxBat

In a technical sense, it doesn’t seem like these bats violate the league policy. These are not pink bats, which is what the exclusivity deal the MLB has with Louisville Slugger is applicable to.

However, baseball has seen things otherwise, and has instructed players who had planned to use the Mother’s Day MaxBats not to do so.

One of those players, Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, took to Twitter to voice his disappointment in frustration.

Trevor Plouffe (@TPlouffe24) – “Seriously disgusting that a company would block awareness for Breast Cancer research so their brand can stand out. Thanks @sluggernation !”

Trevor Plouffe (@TPlouffe24) – “Sorry Mom. I can’t use my Breast Cancer Awareness bat on Sunday because @sluggernation “owns the rights”. Because that’s what it’s about. . .”

We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves.  Monetizing charity for a marketing opportunity is, as Plouffe put it, disgusting. And Major League Baseball’s complicity with Louisville Slugger is motivated by greed and profitability.

If Louisville Slugger wanted to be charitable, it should have been willing to make a donation with no strings attached.

If Major League Baseball wants to trumpet the importance of breast cancer awareness, it shouldn’t let money and the lobbying of a big partner dictate its policies.

Let’s look at this whole situation from a practical standpoint. How much of a marketing advantage is it really to be the only manufacturer whose name appears on the label of the Mother’s Day bats? We don’t have any empirical data, but we think it’s safe to posit a guess that the answer is very, very little.

Sadly, there is likely to be too little of an outcry in time for baseball to change its stance and allow the MaxBat bats to be used this Sunday. But that doesn’t mean we should swallow our outrage. Baseball needs to understand that when it comes to philanthropy, actions should be motivated by charity, not money.

About Matthew George

Matthew George graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2008 with a bachelor of science in journalism. He spent three years writing sports for the Kentucky Kernel, the university's daily paper, and served as assistant sports editor. After undergrad, Matthew attended Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University where he earned his juris doctorate. He is now admitted to practice law in Kentucky and Indiana.

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