Markakis’ bat ban exposes truth about some awareness initiatives

May 10, 2013 | Luke Jones

Markakis’ bat ban exposes truth about some awareness initiatives

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With Mother’s Day this Sunday, Major League Baseball will continue its initiative for breast cancer awareness by providing pink bats for players to use on the holiday for the eighth consecutive year.

The initiative holds special meaning for Nick Markakis with his mother being a breast cancer survivor, but you’re unlikely to see the Orioles right fielder swinging a pink piece of lumber on Sunday.

The reason?

The pink bats made by MaxBat for Markakis and others who own a contract with the maple wood bat company will not be permitted for use by MLB due to an exclusive agreement with Louisville Slugger. The famous wood bat company produces all of the bats distributed by the league to players for Sunday’s games.

On a day meant to raise awareness and celebrate breast cancer survivors around baseball, we will instead witness the latest example of many of these initiatives being as much — or more — about a money grab and protecting sponsors as they are about doing something good. The simple notion that MLB won’t allow pink bats made by other companies for players to use for one day in the season reflects how much more concerned the league is with keeping a sponsor happy rather than allowing players to pay tribute to those fighting the disease.

By no means is the initiative without charity as MLB claims to have raised more than $1 million through auctions of these game-used bats over the last eight years. Pink personalized bats made by Louisville Slugger will also be sold on MLB.com, with $10 from each bat going to Major League Baseball Charities to be apportioned to fight breast cancer. The league says more than $300,000 have been donated from sales of these personalized bats.

But are these dollars representative of a sincere effort to help or little more than a write-off in order to strike a profit behind a veil of charity?

Of course, MLB isn’t alone as the National Football League faced criticism with the revelation that a measly five percent of the profits made from the massive amount of pink gear sold — players and coaches also wear pink throughout the month of October — is donated to the American Cancer Society. According to the league, the rest of the profit is pumped back into its breast cancer awareness program titled A Crucial Catch, but that has drawn scrutiny from those believing the pink merchandise is much more about marketing the league to women than truly trying to make a difference in defeating breast cancer.

Charities and non-profit organizations constantly face questions over how the money they raise from the public is ultimately used, but it’s frustrating to see entities worth billions being stingy when the curtain is pulled back with programs such as these.

It’s understandable for MLB to use its partnership with Louisville Slugger to produce these pink bats as well as the light blue ones used on Father’s Day to raise awareness for prostate cancer, but to prohibit players like Markakis from using pink lumber produced by other companies for use on Sunday reveals the league’s true colors.

And there’s much more green than there is pink.

(Updated at 8:15 p.m. – After receiving plenty of negative reaction on Friday evening, Major League Baseball released the following statement via Twitter:

“All players can use pink bats Sunday with any bat company that makes a modest donation to @KomenForTheCure.”)

 

 

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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Dave Says:

    Guarantee you that if the MLB couldn’t make money off their “breast cancer awareness”, they wouldn’t do it. Sad.

  2. PghSteve Says:

    Just wondering: would the NFL allow a team to use jerseys with pink numbers for one game in October if the jerseys were made by a company other than Nike?

    (L.J. – Of course they wouldn’t. The difference here is that players are allowed to use bats from any company as long as they’re within the rules of the game. Major League Baseball had the right to ban Markakis’ pink-labeled bats for Sunday, but it doesn’t make it the right thing to do.)

  3. Chris Says:

    Hate the corporateness of today’s world. Wish we could step back about 20 years when not EVERYTHING was centered around the almighty dollar. It doesn’t matter if it a sports league or any other corporate venture.

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