By Tim Healey
The almighty and always-reasonable NCAA has spoken: Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott cannot wear his crop-top jersey anymore.
The NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Committee last month banned the practice of players tucking their jersey underneath pads and exposing their midsection, a style most recently made noteworthy by Elliott during his monster College Football Playoff performance.
Now, it's an "illegal equipment issue" and any offending player will be forced out of the game to correct it.
Ohio State football fans have been circulating a change.org petition to get the NCAA to change the rule. It's picked up nearly 9,000 supporters so far. Elliott appreciates the effort, but isn't particularly bothered by the new wardrobe mandate.
"You know, it seems like a silly rule, but it's something you really can't make that big of a deal about. It's just a jersey," Elliott said after Buckeyes practice Thursday. "I love the game of the football, and it's such a minute detail, so it's just like, whatever."
It seems silly to so closely govern something as minor as the finer details of athletes' clothing beyond a basic uniform. And yet here we are. In 2005, the NBA infamousy instituted a mandatory dress code for all players not in uniform (on the bench, attending functions, walking to and from the stadium). Things have relaxed a little bit since then, but when it comes to uniform regulations like the NCAA's, this sort of thing happens all the time -- from the traditional to the bizarre to the recently done away with.
Pitchers can't be distracting
It makes sense in theory. You don't want the pitcher to gain an unfair advantage by distracting the hitter with his attire.
But sometimes it gets weird. Joaquin Benoit was forced to remove a bandage from his face during the 2011 ALDS. Pre-beard Brian Wilson -- after being fined for his orange shoes -- took a black sharpie to them. Yovani Gallardo had to cover up a bandage on his non-pitching arm in 2009. During one particularly busy weekend for Arthur Rhodes in 2001, he was ejected from a game for refusing to remove his diamond earrings on Saturday, then agreed to remove them on Sunday before blowing a save.
Major League Baseball and the Players' Association, in an agreement that was collectively bargained most recently in 2011, decided "no field personnel may wear distracting jewelry of any kind."
From the CBA: "Distracting jewelry includes any item worn or used by a Player which, in the opinion of the umpire, could interfere with the play of the game or umpires' ability to make calls, or endanger the health or safety of a player, including the Player wearing the jewelry."
Wimbledon's monochromatic rule
The big-time tennis tournament, as steeped in tradition as it is, is a likely culprit for archaic wardrobe directives. When some started to push the boundaries of its longtime not-at-all-racial "all-white" rule -- most notably, perhaps, in the form of Serena Williams' colored tights in 2013 -- Wimbledon pushed right back, cracking down in 2014.
No colored soles. No off-white. "Undergarments that either are or can be visible during play, including due to perspiration, must also be completely white and contain no more than 1cm of coloured trim," players were warned prior to last year's tournament.
Mandatory bikinis for beach volleyball
That was the case from 1996, the sport's first Olympic appearance, until 2012, when the International Volleyball Federation did away with the rule. At the London Games in 2012, it allowed shorts and sleeved tops for the first time in an attempt to accommodate participating countries whose particularly conservative religious and/or cultural standards didn't jive with two-pieces.
(The Americans proudly stuck with bikinis, though, with some thought-through reasons.)
Preceding the rule change was a brief controversy during the 2008 World Beach Volleyball tournament in which the Indian team refused to wear bikinis. The rules were relaxed to accommodate them.
NHL enforces jersey-tuck ban
Prior to the start of the 2013-14 season, the NHL announced it was going to start enforcing attire rules that had been in place since 1964 but in recent years had grown lax.
From then on, the NHL decided, players had to wear their protective equipment -- aside from gloves, helmets and goalies' leg guards -- under their uniform. So no more tucking your jersey in. Increasingly severe penalties -- first a warning, then a two-minute minor, then a misconduct and finally a game misconduct -- serve as a deterrent.
This angered some players.
"I'm the guy who love that kind of stuff. I'm kind of upset about it, but most important thing, nobody talk to us, the players. They think it can be dangerous for somebody. I think it's kind of stupid," Capitals star Alex Ovechkin said at the time. "My gear is not stay [near] my body so jersey always goes in. If I'm going to put jersey normally, I'm going to skate and it goes back."
At least one writer speculated that this was a first step toward putting advertisements on jerseys.
Tim Healey is a contributor to Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @timbhealey.