MLB Told Ben Zobrist Not to Wear Black Cleats — and He Isn’t Happy About It

Chicago Cubs star Ben Zobrist likes to wear all-black cleats to home games — a statement he intentionally makes to commemorate the uniforms of years past.

But according to the MLB, Zobrist’s footwear choice does not comply with the league’s uniform regulations, which require that at least 51 percent of a shoe’s exterior be the color designated by the player’s team. The chosen color of Zobrist’s Cubs is blue.

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Dear @mlb, I still like you but this is rediculous. 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. 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. @newbalancebaseball made a kid’s dream come true by making some all black spikes with the special tongue as well as the “Benny the Jet” @pf_flyers cleats. I am curious as to why @mlb is spending time and money enforcing this now when they haven’t done it previously in the last year and beyond. 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. Sincerely, Ben Zobrist

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

“We understand that some players prefer more flexibility in the color of their shoes, but the current rules were collectively bargained with the Players Association, and we must enforce the rules as written in fairness to all players and Clubs,” a letter sent by the MLB to Zobrist reads. “In the absence of an agreement with the Players Association … you will be subject to further discipline, including assessment of a fine, if you continue to wear shoes that do not comply with the Uniform Regulations.”

kris bryant, ben zobrist, wrigley field, new balance
Ben Zobrist (R) high-fives Kris Bryant while wearing black New Balance cleats at Wrigley Field.
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock

In response, Zobrist shared an image of the letter to his Instagram account, writing an open letter to the MLB explaining the reasoning behind his decision to violate these uniform regulations.

“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,” 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.”

On the field, Zobrist wears all-black cleats from New Balance that feature a special tongue, as well as “Benny the Jet” custom cleats by PF Flyers x New Balance.

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