After looking at some of the interesting choices of attire that I have seen many National Basketball Association (NBA) athletes sporting since the implementation of the mandatory dress code, I can’t help but wonder if the decision to implement such a dress code policy was race and culture driven after all.
I remember October 17, 2005 like it was yesterday, when NBA commissioner David Stern announced that all NBA players were going to be subjected to a mandatory dress code policy. This was a monumental announcement, primarily because the NBA became the first major professional sports league to implement such a rule. The dress code went into effect at the start of the 2005–06 NBA season.
If you check out the NBA official website, you will see that the General Policy states that NBA players are to wear “Business Casual” attire whenever they are engaged in team or league business. Commissioner Stern stated that all players must dress in business or conservative attire when they arrive at and depart from a scheduled game.
NBA players must also adhere to the policy while sitting on the bench while injured, and when conducting official NBA business such as press conferences, interviews, charity events, etc. Players who are caught violating the dress code are fined and possibly suspended after repeat offenses.
The dress code was developed with the intention of combating image problems that have plagued the NBA in recent history. Interestingly enough, the newly implemented dress code banned attire that was most commonly associated with African-Americans and the hip-hop culture, such as jerseys, baggy jeans, fitted-caps, hats, t-shirts, large jewelry, sneakers and Timberland style boots.
According to the NBA, the term "Business Casual" attire means: A long or short-sleeved dress shirt (collared or turtleneck), and/or a sweater; Dress slacks, khaki pants, or dress jeans; Appropriate shoes and socks, including dress shoes, dress boots, or other presentable shoes; but not including sneakers, sandals, flip-flops, or work boots.
The following is a list of items that the NBA says that players are not allowed to wear at any time while on team or league business: Sleeveless shirts; Shorts; T-shirts; jerseys; or sports apparel (unless appropriate for the event (e.g., a basketball clinic), team-identified, and approved by the team); Headgear of any kind while a player is sitting on the bench or in the stands at a game, during media interviews, or during a team or league event or appearance (unless appropriate for the event or appearance, team-identified, and approved by the team); Chains, pendants, or medallions worn over the player's clothes; Sunglasses while indoors; and Headphones (other than on the team bus or plane, or in the team locker room.
Under current NBA dress regulations, if a player does not dress to participate in a game, he must dress in a manner suitable for a coach. In the NBA, a suit or a sport coat is required for coaches, but a necktie is not required. Recently, an NBA employee told injured Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah to leave his team’s bench because his outfit was deemed unacceptable by the NBA. All the man had on was a fashionable sweater.
At the time that the dress code policy was implemented, critics such as Allen Iverson and Paul Pierce, claimed that the dress code would not change a person's character
regardless of what type of clothing they wore, and that associating hip-hop style of dress with crime or a bad image is racist. Many other people, including non-NBA celebrities and sports figures, have stated they believe this policy unfairly targets young Black males and is a slap against hip-hop culture which the NBA also exploits to its benefit when it suits them.
Others have argued against this mode of thought and have challenged anyone who would think that this change in dress code was nothing more than making sure that viewers of the NBA see their athletes as professionals and business-like.
I find this “holier-than-thou” approach to NBA players to be as troubling and racist today, as it was when it was implemented in 2005. How hypocritical is it for the NBA to associate hip-hop style of dress with crime or a bad image, yet consistently use hip-hop artists to do songs for them for video games, marketing purposes and to play in every NBA arena across the globe?
Oh, but I get it. You don’t want these NBA athletes to dress the part and provide a negative influence to the investors (viewers).
Fast forward to this foolishness that I see today. These guys aren’t wearing business-attire and suits. They are wearing clothes from popular culture that, in my estimation, don’t at all look business-like or professional. I honestly don’t know whether I am looking at NBA athletes looking business-like and professional or runway models who are competitors on the current season of “America’s Next Top Model.”
This stuff is getting out of hand and I think Commissioner Stern is being hypocritical by letting these athletes get away with it. Tell me what is so professional and business-like about a dude wearing skinny jeans or a Capri pants suit, like Dwyane Wade just did recently. Then again, maybe I should look at the perception of the attire these athletes are wearing, similar to what Stern and his other cronies are promoting. Besides, it is a lot more intimidating seeing a guy wearing some baggy jeans, a jersey and a Jesus piece, than it is a guy who is wearing some skinny jeans and Capri pants.