The new NBA dress code requires players to wear “business casual” attire, banning, among other things, ‘do rags, retro jerseys, and chains.
David Stern recently announced the new NBA dress code, which becomes effective this season. The policy enforces “business casual” attire for players when they are involved in any team or league business, including anytime in the regular season when they are playing or traveling.
The list of banned items is extensive: chains, pendants, medallions, hats, ‘do rags, retro jerseys, sleeveless shirts, shorts, sunglasses while indoors, headphones when not on the bus or plane, sneakers, sandals, flip-flops and work boots. Violations result in fines and repeat violators may be suspended.
I understand that playing in the NBA is a job and that the athletes are professionals, therefore the league has a right to impose standards for them to abide by. They are paid millions of dollars; dressing in a suit isn’t asking too much. However, the NBA is, more than anything, a form of entertainment, and how players dress is part of the show.
Clothes are a way to express character and uniqueness. Fans want to know players personally; they want to see them express individuality. Different fans will have different opinions. They may criticize or idolize the way a player dresses, but either way they get a chance to see an aspect of that player’s style and personality.
Imagine Dennis Rodman without the rainbow colored hair and nose piercing (certainly not business casual appropriate). His style expressed aspects of his character. You could love it or hate it, but it definitely brought excitement and attention to the game. Besides that the dress code is way too strict, is it really even necessary? The majority of the players probably dress this way anyway most of the time. A rule outlining specifications seems excessive. And if a player does choose to dress in an “unprofessional” way, then that is a reflection on that individual. Let the fans decide whether or not they think it is appropriate.
In addition, the dress code does not stop at the doors of the stadium; it even goes as far as dictating what players can wear when they are traveling. I just don’t find it necessary for a player to be in a suit when they are coming off a late night flight into a city for a road game and no one is even in the airport. If a player is tired after a tough home game, then headed across the country that night, he deserves to be comfortable in sweat pants and a t-shirt if he so desires.
This new policy came about because owners think the NBA has an image that all players are thugs and gangsters. Last year’s brawl in Detroit has hurt the player image, making players look mean, rude, and ready to fight any fan who criticizes them from the stands.
Stern’s new policy is a tactic to erode away this image and make players more presentable to the public. Enforcing a strict dress code is not the way to do this, though. There are other ways to get better publicity, which the Players Union has talked about, such as having more autograph signing sessions and more appearances at events like season ticket holding functions.
In addition to being overly strict, unnecessary, inconvenient, and limiting individual expression, aspects of this new dress code are indirectly racist. Jeans, t-shirts, throw backs, ‘do rags’, and oversized jewelry around the neck are all items currently banned from the NBA and also are all items associated with hip-hop style donned by many young black men.
“I have no problem dressing up ... because I know I’m a nice-looking guy. But as far as chains, I definitely feel that’s a racial statement. Almost 100 percent of the guys in the league who are young and black wear big chains. So I definitely don’t agree with that at all,” said Stephen Jackson of the Indiana Pacers in a quote from the Indianapolis Star.
In light of the fact that the majority of NBA players are black, the NBA dress code is widely construed as a way to force these individuals to conform to what is “acceptable” by White America. The dress code is inappropriate and too harsh. Players should be allowed to express their individuality by wearing what they choose. Hopefully, the Players Union can fight this policy, or at least change it to something more reasonable.
Amanda Vollrath is a staff columnist for the DSJ. Her views do not necessarily represent those of the entire staff.