With opposition to the use of smokeless tobacco picking up steam at many of Major League Baseball's ballparks, it was revealed Friday that players, coaches and other personnel who violate anti-tobacco rules could be subject to league discipline.
According to Outside the Lines' William Weinbaum and Michele Steele, MLB chief legal counsel Dan Halem said that Article XII of the MLB collective bargaining agreement gives commissioner Rob Manfred the power to take action against anyone within the league who is found to have broken an anti-tobacco law: "Players or anybody in baseball found to have violated a law are subject to discipline from the commissioner. Smokeless tobacco laws are no different."
Based on the response from an anonymous MLB Players Association official, however, there is a disconnect since the players refused to agree to a leaguewide smokeless tobacco ban that was proposed in 2011, per Weinbaum and Steele: "MLB would have a fight on their hands if they attempt to discipline players under the 'Just Cause' provision."
Talk of potential discipline comes on the heels of New York City approving a ban on smokeless tobacco at sporting events, along with Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles doing the same, according to ESPN.com's Adam Rubin.
The push against smokeless tobacco has seemingly been met with mixed reactions, as some players understand the push to get the habit out of the game, while others like Chicago Cubs reliever James Russell don't intend to stop, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune:
It's not going to stop me from dipping. I get the whole health thing and all that. ... Congratulations. But it's not a big issue. It's not going to hurt my feelings. I'm still going to dip tobacco and I'm sure [San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison] Bumgarner is still going to do the same. It's not like they can tell us not to do it. To each his own.
MLB is certainly in a tough position due to the conflict between city ordinances and what the CBA allows the players to do.
It remains unclear how players and other personnel will be policed over the course of the season, but if Manfred ultimately does decide to wield his power on the smokeless tobacco issue, it could lead to a major battle off the field.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.