Friday, November 11, 2005

Dress for Success: NBA Dress Code

The NBA has instituted a dress-code for its players. I know what you're thinking - "Don't they already have a dress code? Called uniforms?" But the dress code is for team-related events, including going to press conferences, boarding planes, and doing charity work. It's basically requires them to dress in business casual - khakis, collared shirts, etc. The reason given is that they think the NBA has an image problem, that players are dressing too sloppy or too much like gang members, and they need to have a more professional image.

Personally, I can see both sides. It's true that some NBA players are dressing too sloppy and that it would certainly give a more respectful look to the game. On the other hand, having to sit through a six-hour flight in khakis and dress shoes seems a bit much. So forget that part. To me, the most important part of this is the racial issue. Steven Jackson has called the dress code racist, saying:

"I'll wear a suit every day. I think we do need to look more professional because it is a business. A lot of guys have gotten sloppy with the way they dress. But it's one thing to [enforce a] dress code and it's another thing if you're attacking cultures, and that's what I think they're doing."

While that's a controversial argument and one which I think is narrow-minded, it's certainly far from completely false. I've heard people say this decision has nothing to do with race, and that's just plain wrong. If this was a predominantly white league and the players all wore overalls, work boots, and plaid shirts, I'm not sure we'd be getting such an uproar.

Consider the words of coach Phil Jackson:

"The players have been dressing in prison garb the last five or six years. All the stuff that goes on, it's like gangster, thuggery stuff.

Gangsters? Thugs? Aren't those exactly the words some people use in a derogatory sense to describe African-Americans in general? I agree that wearing do-rags and chain-links around your neck is gangster. But jeans and a T-shirt? Retro jerseys? Pendants? Since when are those gangster or prison garb? I don't remember seeing players in black-and-white striped coveralls and handcuffs getting off the planes. So what exactly is "prison garb?" Answer: Hip-hop style clothing. Which are worn by African-Americans.

I'm not saying it's all racist. They do need to do something after Allen Iverson started punching people in the audience. But they have to acknowledge that the dress code is based at least a little bit on race. At some level, rich white people are nervous because the game has become too black-oriented, and they want to rein it in. Even if that's not true, they should work to avoid giving that impression. I don't have a problem with the dress code, just those who insist it's not about race. When you've got white people telling black people how to dress, it's almost impossible not to be.

Read someone else's editorial on the NBA's Hypocritical Dress Code.
Categories: sports


glomgold said...

I'm not sure which looks worse. The black players wearing polo shirts or the white players who were wearing Karl Kani jeans and FUBU stuff. One thing's for sure, putting players in suits will definitely stop the bad ones from getting high and into barfights! Oh, wait...

Mauricem said...

I say if the industry wants to try to look professional they should. "Coach Carter" had a policy of the kids dressing up for games to make them take the game more seriously. Personally, I think that's were they got the idea.

Rambo said...

Intresting views. Personally I think that the dress of NBA players isn't the problem so much as behavior (Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and especially Ron Artest). Stern should be focusing on ammending behavior rather than dressing up the problem.

Because that's really what the dress code is. It's a bandage, a crutch if you will. And if you leave a bandage on too long without treating the wound itself, it starts to worsen...