MINNEAPOLIS — Major League Baseball players say they may consider whether to discuss a ban on chewing tobacco when they negotiate their next labor contract in two years. For now, they hope individuals decide on their own to stop dipping.
Players’ union head Tony Clark said Monday that several of his members have quit cold turkey following the death of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn on June 16 from oral cancer.
While the use of smokeless tobacco was banned for players with minor league contacts in 1993, it is permitted for players with major league deals. The labor agreement covering 2012-16 says players may not carry tobacco packages and tins in their back pockets when fans are permitted in ballparks, and they may not use tobacco during pre-game and post-game interviews and at team functions.
“I think what we have been doing thus far has been a positive, and although I’m not going to offer you a bargaining proposal today on chewing tobacco, we could have that conversation,” Clark said Tuesday before the All-Star game.
“Then we will see where the guys are and continue the education and their appreciation for or against, or what the many considerations that need to be made in the area even look like, and we’ll have that conversation with Major League Baseball,” he said.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who plans to retire in January, promised “it will be a subject that they’ll discuss at the next collective bargaining” but acknowledged “I understand that individuals have the right to make their own decisions.”
Gwynn, 54 at his death, attributed his cancer to years of chewing tobacco.
“We believe that the numbers suggest that the usage has declined significantly, declined in the minor leagues, declined in the majors,” Clark said during a question-and-answer session with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. “Our hope is that we continue to educate guys on that the damage that dipping can do, that they will continue to decide not to dip and chew.”
Clark, a former All-Star first baseman who never dipped, said Gwynn’s death “really smacks you between the eyes, and it’s unfortunate sometimes, that an event like that brings that decision instead of that decision being made beforehand.”
No change is planned during the current labor contract.
“We give the players the opportunity to make the decision that they’re going to make against the backdrop of it being legal,” Clark said. “We don’t condone it. They know we don’t condone it. … So at the end of the day, yes, we will continue to educate guys, and yes, the players will continue to have a decision that they make in that area.”