Why do American Football Players and Baseball players have black paint drawn under their eyes?

If you’re like me and don’t know much about American football or baseball, you may find yourself wondering why these football or baseball players are sometimes shown wearing war-paint-like black lines under their eyes. Is it done to intimidate the opposition or is there another reason for this decoration?

The name for this black grease that is applied under the eyes is “eye black”, and it’s often made with beeswax that has been blackened with carbon. Why is it blackened? Because this is the best colour to absorb light. Why would it need to absorb light? To stop glare entering the players eyes.

If sunlight or stadium lights are shining, there’s a chance that the light will reflect off their cheeks, and into their eyes, and this may impair the player’s sight and therefore their game. A study by DeBroff & Phak (2003) has shown that absorption of this light by the black paint on their cheeks reduces the glare and improves contrast sensitivity.

DeBroff & Pahk 2003. The Ability of Periorbitally Applied Antiglare Products to Improve Contrast Sensitivity in Conditions of Sunlight Exposure. Archives of Ophthalmology 121 (7): 997–1001.

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One Response to Why do American Football Players and Baseball players have black paint drawn under their eyes?

  1. NBA says:

    This isn’t entirely related but talking about black paint made me think of race and ethnicity issues.

    I have seen Asian, Hispanic, Black, White, HECK EVEN EAST INDIAN etc. Baseball players go out on the field and compete. In football all I have seen are Black and White and that is about it. Is there any reason as to why baseball is more inclusive in terms of race than football? (by football I mean American Football)

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