Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin in February 2024 at the NBA All-Star Game. Feb 18, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Fanatics owner Michael Rubin attends the 73rd NBA All Star game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest stories of MLB spring training has been around the new Nike Vapor Premier uniforms, designed by Nike and manufactured by Fanatics. Those have been ripped by everyone from players to broadcasters to fans for a variety of issues, including seeming increased see-through quality to the pants (MLB says the pants are the same material as before, but the fits have been changed) to smaller names on the back of the jerseys to the quality and feel of the fabric. Now, Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin has pushed back.

Rubin’s pushback came in comments at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Friday, where conference co-founder and Kraft Analytics Group CEO Jessica Gelman interviewed him about “future disruptions, globalization of sports, and the future of Fanatics.” But perhaps the most notable things he said there were about the uniforms. Mike Silverman of The Boston Globe tweeted out many of those comments:

The comments there from Rubin appear to be somewhat fair. The uniforms are designed by Nike, not Fanatics, with Fanatics only manufacturing them. If they’re doing to to the agreed-upon specifications, it’s not their fault. But Fanatics has taken a lot of criticism over the quality of much of its apparel long before this, and that’s likely why a lot of the backlash here has come for them in particular.

The uniforms have certainly been under fire from players, media, broadcasters, and fans. But as per comments from MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark Thursday, the parties involved are trying to address the raised concerns:

“You just don’t expect to have conversations about uniforms,” Clark said Thursday after meeting with New York Yankees players. “And so having them, I’m hopeful, and this goes back to what we suggested before, in picking up the phone and talking to all the folks involved, having some appreciation for folks paying attention to it now perhaps more so than they were before spring started yet.”

Player comments have slowed recently.

“It’s calm because the commentary that’s being offered suggests that the powers that be are paying attention to the concerns that are there and are engaging how best to address them moving forward.” Clark said. “And so the tension that was drawn early, the concerns still exist. We’re hopeful that as we sprint toward opening day over the course of the next month or so that we don’t have a second batch of commentary around the pants when the lights come on.”

We’ll see what happens there. But it’s certainly interesting to see Rubin noticing this backlash and discussing it this way.

[Mike Silverman on Twitter/X]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.