One of the most iconic, and disgusting, sights in Major League Baseball — a player chomping on a wad of chewing tobacco and spitting the brown goo wherever — may soon go the way of games of pepper if New York lawmakers get their way.
Officials for both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field have backed calls for banning chewing tobacco after the Health Department backed legislation calling for chaw to be kept out of both venues — by players and fans alike.
Democratic councilman Corey Johnson sponsored the legislation, and told the New York Daily News he hopes it will be in place in time for the start of the 2016 season, which begins on April 4 when the Mets play the Kansas City Royals.
"I couldn’t imagine us being OK as a city or society as a whole with a baseball player standing in left field smoking a cigarette while the game was going on, on national television," he told the News.
"But it seems to be, just because of culturally what has existed for a long time, it’s OK for professional athletes to stand in left field or in the dugout and chew wads of smokeless tobacco."
Health experts say young sports fans are repeatedly exposed to the practice on TV and at stadiums, making it seem "socially acceptable," despite it being linked with cancer and mouth disease.
The legislation is almost certain to pass as it has the backing of Mayor Bill de Blasio, and higher-ups for both the Yankees and the Mets.
Similar bans have already gone through at Boston’s Fenway Park and stadiums in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The practice has been completely banned in the minor leagues, but a deal still needs to be reached with the players' union to bring the practice to major league baseball.
Legal counsel Kevin Schroth said rates of young people using chewing tobacco surprisingly doubled between 2007 to 2013, with 4.4 per cent reporting using the substance — despite a decade-long policy drive in New York to cut the rates of tobacco use, which saw smoking rates fall to their lowest on record in 2014, at just 13.9 per cent.
While the Yankees and the Mets brass have said they support the ban, according to city officials, it remains to be seen how the players who stuff their cheeks with the stuff will react.
MLB has tried to slowly phase the practice out of the game by banning the substance in the minor leagues — but still hasn’t reached a deal with the MLB players’ union.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is pushing cities with teams around the country to bar the product.
“Ball players aren’t just indulging in a harmless habit when they use smokeless tobacco — they’re damaging their health with an addictive produce that causes cancer and other serious diseases,” said Kevin O’Flaherty, the group’s northeast director. “And they’re endangering the well-being of millions of kids who look up to them.”
I'll spit to that.