Fanatics CEO's initial reaction to MLB uniform fiasco: 'We f***ed this up'

The better analysis of MLB's new uniforms turned out to be 'Nike f*** this up'

DETROIT, MI - JUNE 13:  Patrick Corbin #46 of the Washington Nationals pitches while wearing a sweat stained Nike jersey during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on June 13, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Nationals 7-2.  (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Sweat stains are just the start of the issues with MLB's Nike-designed, Fanatics-made uniforms. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Fanatics has seen no shortage of criticism in its attempts to become a monolithic supplier of all major sports apparel in the U.S. That wound up being a problem for the company when the discourse around MLB uniforms began.

In case you need a refresher, the start of MLB spring training featured a firehose of complaints about the league's new uniforms. The name letterings were too small. The material felt cheap. The pants were too thin. There were supply issues for the players themselves. Some fixes have since been announced, but problems remain.

The whole thing was a very bad look for MLB, its uniform designers at Nike and its uniforms makers at Fanatics, but Fanatics was the early punching bag — to the point that Fanatics founder and CEO Michael Rubin admitted to The Athletic's Mark Lazerus that he initially assumed his company was indeed responsible:

“My immediate reaction was, ‘We f—ed this up,” Rubin told The Athletic.

He later made a very dramatic claim of how bad the criticism became:

“If you’re a well-known business person, if you’re successful, taking some abuse is part of the territory,” Rubin said. “But the noise around baseball might have been 100 times more than all the noise cumulatively we’ve had in the history of our company.”

Subsequent reporting made pretty clear what happened, and it painted Fanatics in a more sympathetic light. It's easy to imagine Fanatics cheaping out on its uniform manufacturing for MLB, but the company was actually in its fourth year of making MLB uniforms in the same Pennsylvania factory used by Majestic under the league's previous manufacturing deal.

All changes came from Nike with what it called the Nike Vapor Premier jersey, which supposedly used a new fabric that was more breathable and lightweight — and, most likely, cheaper.

The Athletic reports that Fanatics reacted to the initial backlash with some emergency meetings over a couple of hours and arrived at the conclusion that the company had followed Nike's exact specifications.

Those specifications reportedly included:

MLB later issued a memo that said "this has been entirely a Nike issue," and it will be Nike's job to fix things in 2025, as it's too late to salvage this in 2024. The problem with uniforms not being up to snuff in spring training is that it's too late to make fixes because so many jerseys have already been made.