A New York State measure signed into law this week by Gov. Cuomo has some sports fans wondering what that could mean for the Yankees.
The new law prohibits employers from what could be considered racial discrimination against workers by forcing them to do certain things with their hair.
It’s intended to allow employees to keep dreadlocks, cornrows, braids, twists, and fades, among other styles, but it also has raised certain questions among followers of the neatly-trimmed Bronx bombers.
Where have you gone, Sparky Lyle?
Late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner established a policy in 1973 forbidding all team players, coaches and male executives from displaying “any facial hair other than mustaches (except for religious reasons.
“Scalp hair may not be grown below the collar,” the policy adds.
That meant a barbershop trip for several Yankees and future players – among them, the late Oscar Gamble (photo above), who had a mustache, sideburns AND a ‘fro, as well as Jason Giambi and former Boston Red Sox turncoat Johnny Damon.
A popular anecdote of Steinbrenner’s involved former player and manager Lou Piniella, a devout Christian who told The Bos” that hair down to the middle of Jesus Christ’s back “didn’t affect the way he went about his work.”
Steinbrenner, in turn, pointed to a pond beyond the left-field wall at the Yankees' spring-training complex in Ft. Lauderdale and told Sweet Lou that he could wear his hair as long as he wanted if he walked across the water.
Since then, some players for other teams – Red Sox pitcher David Price, for one – have said they wouldn’t play for the Yankees because of the policy.
Under the new New York State law, an employer may ban particular styles if they interfere in any way with a “bona fide occupational qualification” to hold the job – a professional model hired for a specific look, for instance.
A companion law prohibits bans on religious-based appearance, which could mean not only facial hair but yarmulkes, turbans or hijabs unless the employer can prove it’s a job hazard.
In the end, it all means that compliance with the Yankees’ hair policy can now only be considered voluntary.
No one expects the Bronx Bombers to change their pinstripes.
However, if a newly-signed player or someone else in the organization decides to take it to arbitration, the proceedings could become a nail-biter that the-e-e-e-e-e-e Yankees lose.
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