Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin on MLB jersey criticism: ‘We’ve purely been doing exactly as we’re told’



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On Friday, Fanatics offered a different kind of transparency.

The manufacturer of the Major League Baseball uniforms unveiled this spring, Fanatics has been widely panned in recent weeks, in part because player pants are too see-through. But Michael Rubin, the company’s CEO, said Friday that Fanatics taking undue heat as fans and players — individually, and as the MLBPA — have criticized the Nike-designed uniforms.

“We’ve purely been doing exactly as we’re told — we’ve been told we’ve done everything exactly right — and we’re getting the s— kicked out of ourselves every day right now,” Rubin said at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Massachusetts. “That’s not fun. Normally when I get beat up it’s because I actually did something wrong.”

Rubin, the former minority owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, joked that he’d provide background for those in attendance, “but I think everyone’s read about it in the past week or two.” He said the biggest lesson he’s learned from the situation is that before making significant changes to the uniforms Nike needed more player approval.

“They got certain players on board, not all players on board,” Rubin said. “When you change something so old and so nostalgic, you need everyone to be on board with it.”

Nike took over as MLB’s official uniform supplier before the 2020 season and kept Fanatics as the manufacturer. Fanatics purchased Majestic Athletics, the league’s previous uniform provider, in 2017 and so now the Nike uniforms are produced in the same Fanatics-owned Easton, Pa., factory where the league’s uniforms have been made since 2005.

“In this particular case, Nike designs everything, hands us a spec and says, ‘Make this,’” Rubin said. “We have made everything exactly to the spec. Nike and baseball would say, yes, you’ve done everything we’ve asked you to do. Part of changing a uniform is people get uncomfortable, and it takes time (to adjust).”

Rubin said he thinks Nike’s uniforms will be regarded as an improvement over time.

Major League Baseball is working on improving the uniforms, per Tony Clark, head of the players’ union.

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(Photo: Justin Berl / Getty Images)





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