Under new deal, Palmer factory will make MLB uniforms for Nike, not Under Armor

Here is the change. Ready for it?

OK, now stay balanced even when the news crosses the plate: Under Armor is out; the Swoosh is in it.

Major League Baseball announced Friday that Nike will, beginning in 2020, be the league’s official on-field uniform and footwear supplier, confirming speculation that surfaced last spring. Nike replaces Under Armour, which was originally awarded the 10-year deal at the end of 2016 but has been plagued with financial difficulties – and other off-field issues – ever since.

All of this means Fanatics, which bought Majestic in the spring of 2017 in a $225 million acquisition from VF Corp., has a new partner in the deal that will continue production of MLB uniforms and fanwear. on the ground at the company’s plant in Palmer. Township well into the future. The Newlins Mill Road factory typically employs between 500 and 600 people, the largest garment manufacturer remaining in the shriveled Lehigh Valley garment industry.

Specifically, Fanatics holds licensing rights under the agreement to manage the manufacturing and distribution of the Nike MLB Authentic collection, as well as Nike and Fanatics fan gear, sold through various retail channels.

In addition to playing a key role in the manufacture of fan gear, the Palmer factory will continue to manufacture the field uniforms once the agreement with Nike begins, Fanatics spokesperson Meier Raivich confirmed and the Nike spokesperson Josh Benedek. The only difference is that factory workers sew the Nike Swoosh onto the front of each jersey, rather than the originally planned Under Armor logo.

The Majestic logo, on the sleeve of every uniform for about 15 years, is expected to stick around for another MLB season.

The union representing about 500 employees at the Palmer plant said it appreciates the longstanding support of baseball players and the Major League Baseball Players Association, among others, to help keep work at Palmer going over the years. years.

“The skilled work and expertise of our members ensures that players’ uniforms are of the highest quality and worthy of the great athletes who wear them,” said David Melman, director of the Pennsylvania Joint Board Workers United, Service Employees International Union. , in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our good relationship with Fanatics and working with Nike and Major League Baseball in the future.”

Talks between the union and Fanatics will take place soon, Melman noted, with the workers’ current contract expiring on May 31.

And for Fanatics, having a domestic manufacturing facility is a huge plus in its growing business.

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One reason: the licensed apparel business relies on quick reaction. So if a player is traded, called up, or just on a hot streak, a domestic factory can react immediately and release the products immediately.

This was on full display in September 2016 when the Majestic factory rushed to help Miami Marlins honor pitcher Jose Fernandez who was killed in a boating accident. After receiving notice one Sunday afternoon, the factory called in workers early the next morning, made 52 Fernandez No. 16 jerseys, and personally transported them to Florida for that night’s game.

Although no one questioned the dedication of the workers at the Palmer factory, MLB executives began to question the little-known brand of Majestic.

The alignment with Under Armor represented a significant change for the sport, a partnership with a company founded just 20 years earlier. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred hoped working with Under Armor would help grow baseball among young people.

MLB hoped to move quickly to Under Armor after Fanatics acquired Majestic. Manfred on May 18, 2017, said Under Armor uniforms would hit the field starting with the 2019 season – a year earlier than originally planned. But, in April 2018, news broke that the move to Under Armor had been pushed back to the original target date of 2020. A month later, SportsBusiness Journal reported that Nike was reaching a deal for on-court wear rights, replacing Under Armor as the Baltimore company sought to cut costs.

Now Under Armor is completely out of the picture, with Nike entering the batting box instead. For Nike, which already owns the apparel and on-field rights in the National Football League and National Basketball Association, the MLB deal only extends its dominance when it comes to uniforms and footwear in the National Football League and National Basketball Association. professional sports.

“We are excited to bring more innovation and creativity to Major League Baseball and the incredible athletes who play it,” said Tom Peddie, vice president/general manager of Nike North America, in a press release. “This is an exciting time for baseball, and we look forward to partnering with MLB to grow the sport both in America and around the world.”

Neal T. Doss