Commissioner expresses approval of NYC smokeless-tobacco ban

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred on Tuesday indicated general support for the smokeless-tobacco bans beginning to take effect at the league's stadiums around the country.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to sign into law on Wednesday the smokeless-tobacco ban at sports venues in the city, including Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. New York is poised to join Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco in enacting such bans. Chicago’s City Council has approved a ban, and it is expected to be enacted by midseason.

Players and spectators will be subject to fines for violating the ban at Mets and Yankees games.

"No. 1, we have long been on the side of getting smokeless tobacco off the field," said Manfred, who was in Kansas City on Tuesday to attend the Royals' ring presentation ceremony. "It's been banned in the minor leagues for a number of years. In multiple rounds of bargaining, we've made proposals to the MLBPA about eliminating the use of smokeless tobacco on the field. So, in general, we see the legislation that has been passed as a positive. It is a health risk for our players -- one we'd like to avoid."

As for whether MLB might play a role in enforcing the law, Manfred added: "In the first instance, enforcement of those laws are something that is within the responsibility of local law enforcement. On the other hand, we expect our players to follow the law -- whatever it is, on any topic. If, in fact, it appears that we can play a useful role in terms of enforcing the bans, we'll do that."

MLB’s chief legal counsel, Dan Halem, told Outside the Lines recently that under the collective bargaining agreement, Manfred could penalize players at his discretion for breaking smokeless-tobacco laws. A Major League Baseball Players' Association representative said, however, that MLB would face a fight from the union if it attempts to discipline players in such cases.