Although baseball season is over, one thing still remains: the New York Yankees’ ban on players wearing beards.
The beard ban was instituted by the Yankees’ principal owner. George Steinbrenner, in 1973. Long hair is not allowed either, but mustaches are permitted. Although Steinbrenner died in 2010, the policy remains in effect. The Yankees’ manager, Joe Girardi, said he likes the policy because “the clean-cut look fits with the team’s professional attitude.” “It’s who we are. It was Mr. Steinbrenner’s rule, and I respect that,” said Girardi. Some have speculated that the facial hair ban has cost the Yankees some star players. Former Yankee pitcher (2008–2014) David Robertson signed a four-year, $46 million deal with the Chicago White Sox before the 2015 season. One of the first things he did after going to Chicago was to grow a beard.
But it’s not just the New York Yankees that don’t allow its employees to wear beards. If you want to deliver packages for United Parcel Service (UPS), no facial hair is permitted other than a mustache.
The Publix supermarket chain in the Southeast does not allow its employees to have anything other than a mustache either.
Until just a few years ago, “cast members” at Disney theme parks were not allowed to sport any facial hair — even though Walt Disney had a mustache. The policy was changed in February of 2012.
I’m sure there are other companies that have similar facial hair policies. There are also some conservative Christian schools that forbid their male students to wear beards — or having shaved heads, mohawks, dreadlocks, long hair, goatees, long sideburns, or mustaches.
In most instances, the federal government permits private businesses (as opposed to the public sector) to have a “no-beard” policy. However, businesses must provide religious accommodations. The federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) regulations, under the heading of “Religious Accommodation/Dress & Grooming Policies,” state,
Unless it would be an undue hardship on the employer’s operation of its business, an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices. This applies not only to schedule changes or leave for religious observances, but also to such things as dress or grooming practices that an employee has for religious reasons. These might include, for example, wearing particular head coverings or other religious dress (such as a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim headscarf), or wearing certain hairstyles or facial hair (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard). It also includes an employee’s observance of a religious prohibition against wearing certain garments (such as pants or miniskirts).
Employers must also allow employees to grow a beard if they have a verifiable medical reason for not shaving. Even so, employers can still have a “no-beard” policy if deemed necessary for workplace safety (like needing to wear a particular respirator).
Although Americans may question the motive of the New York Yankees in banning its players from sporting beards, they generally support the right of ball teams and businesses to institute “no-beard” policies no matter how illogical, irrational, or nonsensical they think the policies are.
In a free society, this is the way it should be, not just when it comes to facial hair, but to everything. The Yankees beard ban is therefore a great introduction to life, association, interaction, and conflict resolution in a free society. The implications of the Yankees’ policy extend far out of the ballpark.
The prohibition on Yankees players’ wearing beards should be viewed as just part and parcel of the requirements to play for the Yankees. To play for the Yankees (assuming you sign a contract with the team), you have to show up for practice, wear a clean Yankees uniform, show up for the games, hit above a certain percentage, make errors below a certain number, bat in so many runs, not strike out too many times, do what the manager tells you to do, not have long hair — and be clean shaven. If a member of the Yankees team doesn’t like one or more the Yankees’ policies he has only two options: conform or quit.
In a free society, a ball team’s ability to select and regulate the appearance and behavior of its players would be absolute. If a team wanted to hire only players who were over a certain height, under a certain weight, between two specific ages, belonged or didn’t belong to a particular political party, had a certain hair color, practiced or didn’t practice a certain sexual orientation, belonged or didn’t belong to a particular race, practiced or didn’t practice a specific religion, or had or didn’t have a certain marital status, then that would be up to each team. It may not be a wise thing to include or exclude a particular characteristic or practice, but that is irrelevant. Freedom includes the freedom make bad decisions. In a free society, there would be no government anti-discrimination laws or government-mandated exceptions or accommodations. Those would be up to each individual team. If a potential player doesn’t like any of a team’s stipulations, he has only two options: conform or play for a different team.
And the same is true throughout a free society.
In a free society, if an employer wants his employees to all be male, or all be female, or all be gay, or all be straight, or all be Catholic, or all be Protestant, or all be black, or all be white, then that should be his decision, not the government’s.
In a free society, if a seller prefers a buyer to be a Yankees fan instead of a Cubs fan, then that should be his decision, not the government’s.
In a free society, if a business owner prohibits his male workers from having dreadlocks and long sideburns, then that should be his decision, not the government’s.
In a free society, if a business owner prohibits his female workers from wearing veils or burqas, then that should be his decision, not the government’s.
In a free society, if a landlord prefers a renter to be Democrat instead of a Republican, then that should be his decision, not the government’s.
In a free society, if an organization wants all of its members to have a beard, then that should be its decision, not the government’s.
In a free society, if an individual prefers associating with and living near only people who are just like him in every way, then that should be his decision, not the government’s.
In a free society, it couldn’t be any other way.
The question for Americans is whether or not they want to live in a free society. Not just a society that gives them the freedom to do what they want to do, but a free society for all Americans as long as they engage in peaceful, voluntary activity.
The question is simply this: Should individuals decide or should government decide? Should individuals decide whom they sell to, buy from, trade with, associate with, hire, fire, rent to, or lease to, or should the government decide? Should individuals decide what they eat, drink, or smoke, or should the government decide? Should individuals who own businesses decide what standards of dress, appearance, and conduct are appropriate in the workplace, or should the government decide?
In a free society, it is each individual who makes the decisions how he will live his life, interact with others, engage in commerce, or operate a business; in any other kind of society, the government makes the decisions for each individual.