Athletes Are Finally Getting Accent Marks On Their Jerseys

Minnesota Vikings/Twitter
Minnesota Vikings/Twitter / Minnesota Vikings/Twitter

When baseball commentator Carlos Peña was beginning his career in the minor leagues, the back of his jersey read Pena, which means "pity" or "pain" instead of "rock," as it does with the tilde over the 'n.' In a recent article on a new campaign to get accent marks on baseball jerseys, Peña told The New York Times that he used to put a piece of athletic tape over the 'n' in a makeshift tilde. When he hit the majors, he got the tilde on his jersey as did some other players, but getting the proper diacritics on a name has until now only happened when a player makes a special request to the team. 

This May, the MLB sent out a memo asking that teams start asking players whether they want accent marks on their jerseys, rather than waiting for the players to initiate special requests on their own. It’s part of what has become known as the #PonleAcento campaign, after LA Dodger Adrián González got his accent mark after 16 years in the major leagues and encouraged teammate Enrique Hernández to do the same.

Issues for diacritics on jerseys are not limited to baseball—or Spanish language orthography. In hockey, Daniel Brière became the first Montréal Canadiens team member to get an accent mark on his jersey when he was recruited in 2013. In basketball, the Brazilian player Nenê wears the circumflex over his name, and Slovenian Goran Dragić got the mark over the 'c' on his jersey. In football, wide receiver Pierre Garçon has had the cedilla under his name since he began his career, and in May, the NFL granted German wide receiver Moritz Böhringer permission to use the umlaut.

Modern typography (and tailoring) makes the inclusion of diacritics on jerseys easy. They are small marks that can make a big difference: to pronunciation, to meaning, and—most importantly—to the athletes who want to make a name for themselves with the name they prefer.