Marine Vet Nick Francona, Terry Francona's Son, Shares His Thoughts on How MLB Does Memorial Day All Wrong


  • Indians 2019 Armed Forces Day Hat, Cleveland Indians

Nick Francona's last job in Major League Baseball — as assistant director of player development for the New York Mets — ended, he says, because of his long-standing critiques of how the league treats Memorial Day. What should be a day of remembrance for those who lost their lives fighting for their country has instead been used as a marketing tool by MLB to sell camouflage hats and gear, and while the league says it donates a portion of the proceeds to charity, it has never transparently said how much and the charity in question, Welcome Back Veterans, has no board or operations, it seems, and has refused to say what it uses the money for.

Francona, a Marine vet and the son of Indians manager Terry Francona, laid all this out and more, including recommendations for how the league could better treat the somber occasion, in a detailed proposal that has been widely read and cited in recent years.

Though MLB will not be using camouflage gear this Memorial Day — it instead will do it for Armed Forces Day, a development for which Francona has this to say, "I don’t think the folks at MLB sat down and said, 'How do we appropriately celebrate Memorial Day?”' I think it was more like, “'How do we sell camouflage hats and get away with it, now that we’ve been criticized for how we handle Memorial Day?'" — the uniforms are just part of the issue, and since MLB will be selling them again, it's worth hearing more.

Francona talked at-length with Uni Watch's Paul Lukas on the subject. Part of that conversation below; much more over at Uni Watch HQ.

NF: If you go back and look at it through the recent years, the one consistent theme is that it’s a commercial campaign to sell apparel. I don’t see how anyone could look at this and say, “MLB is honoring the fallen by pushing camouflage hats on people.” It’s just not the case.

UW: But they would probably say — and this brings us back to the financial aspect — that they’re donatiing their profits to military charities and so forth. But I gather that that’s what you’ve been taking issue with, either in terms of their transparency or their follow-through.

NF: Right. But making a charitable donation and coming up with a dignified campaign don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I think a lot of people started looking at all this with a little more skepticism after Brandon McCarthy [MLB pitcher who was then with the Dodgers, now with the Rangers] sent out that tweet a couple of years ago.

I had actually put together a document that proposed how MLB could do this the right way. I highlighted a lot of the issues where we were totally missing the boat with it. Like, just for one example, the Dodgers sent out photos of players in their Memorial Day hats, and it said, “Fresh,” with a fire emoji.

It’s like, really? That is so tone-deaf. I mean, that is just patently offensive, to suggest that that’s even approaching anything like a dignified way to memorialize people. And now it’s not just camouflage caps and jerseys — you have the camouflage eye black, the cleats, the socks, the arm sleeves. It’s turning into dress-up at Halloween. And what you don’t see, through any of this, is any acknowledgment of “This is so-and-so who died. This is their name and their story.” These are real people who died, they have families left behind. And when you actually talk to the families, they care about their lost loved ones’ stories and keeping their names alive. They don’t care about camouflage.

And it’s not just the camo itself — it’s how it’s presented. When you have to really dig and find the fine print that says they’re donating the proceeds — and even then, the fine print is basically “Take our word for it, we’re donating to charity” — that’s problematic. Nobody would look at that and say it looks like a benevolent charitable campaign.

For that wormhole of cloudy charitable giving, read the rest at UW.

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