Friday, October 21, 2005

NBA's dress code

When I was heading into my senior year at Lutheran High School West in Rocky River, the powers that be sent down an edict that sent shockwaves through the school's hallowed, locker-lined halls.
Our dress code was tightening up. Big time.
No more jeans. No t-shirts to be worn as outerwear. No clothing that revealed too much leg, abdomen or any cleavage for girls. Boys were to wear hair no longer than collar-length and shirts and ties on chapel days, Tuesday and Thursday.
It was one step away from uniforms. Parents were pleased. Us kids, however, thought it smacked of fascism and talked about walking into the first day of school in the most faded t-shirts and ripped-up jeans we could find.
In the end, however, our power-fighting exercise didn't go beyond talk and we co-existed peacefully with the new dress code.
The same will probably happen in the NBA, but right now the players are going through the same whining stage we went through.
Unfortunately for NBA commissioner David Stern, he is a white authority figure trying to tighten standards on a mostly black employee pool comprised of millionaires, with egos to match their bank accounts.
These aren't some tantrum-throwing high school kids like we were. NBA players are among the most visible people in the world. When you tell them they can't do something they've been doing for years, it automatically becomes a debate issue for the population at large.
For the record, Stern's new dress code quashes a lot of the "gangsta" image NBA players projects. While appearing in public on the NBA's watch, players must eschew casual dress, oversized neck chains and throwback jerseys for slacks, dress shirts and sport coats. Ties are a plus, and chains must be worn inside clothing.
Predictably, former players like Charles Barkley have spoken in favor of the new dress code. Current player Stephen Jackson of the Indiana Pacers hates it, and said he believes it targets specifically young black males and the "hip hop" culture.
To an extent, Jackson has a point. The NBA embraced urban culture when it came time to attract young black males to the game. When it comes to selling jerseys, The NBA has done everything short of flashing gang signs to make the league appear hip and urban.
I didn't see the NBA shy away from "Dime" magazine, which covers the urban culture of basketball. You can hardly pick up an issue of that magazine without seeing an NBA player on the cover.
But young black males don't buy most of the tickets to NBA games. Those are usually snapped up by the white adults who can afford the extravagant prices to see an NBA game. Those are the people who look with disdain when they see an injured player on the sideline in cornrows with a large diamond-encrusted cross around his neck.
And that's who David Stern made the dress code for. The financially-secure white folks who provide most of the league's ticket revenue.
When you get right down to it, it probably wasn't much different than what happened at Lutheran West. Some well-endowed alumni show up, tell the principal they can't believe how some of the students are dressed, and the principal, always grubbing for donations, solemnly swears to tighten up the dress code.
With the NHL back, the NBA is back into a head-to-head competition for the winter sports dollar in a lot of markets. If rich white folks get too irritated by the NBA, there's always hockey. Even with the NHL reeling financially, Stern knows he is a swing of a few thousand season ticket holders away from a level playing field with hockey again.
Stern's dress code is the typical two-faced approached that makes for bad bedfellows, but good business. Give African-American boys tons of attitude and rap music with your product. Give the 50-year-old white couple Ozzie and Harriet.
When an NBA player next appears in an issue of "Dime," we don't know what he'll be wearing, be we can be certain it won't be a starched collar and wingtips.

2 comments:

Abrasivist said...

Commandant Stern should have taken the approach with the players as to how it would benefit THEM to follow the new dress code. For instance, in a suit it will be much harder for airport security to find their drugs.

Stern is trying to win people like me back with this dress code. Middle aged, money to burn who turned off the NBA about the same time some of their superstars complained about having to play in the all star game without getting paid
and complained that they were going to have a hard time feeding their family with a few million dollars less than the millions they were already making.

And you're going to bring me back by having a dresscode? (By the way, I chose my words carefully...I said "having", not "enforcing". The NBA puts up with star players pressuring front office as to what coach they will or will not play for. No way there will be big penalties for dressing like a convenience store gunman if they want to)

Here is the bottom line on the dress code. If you take feces and put it on a solid gold plate, put the finest gravy on it, and garnish it with parsley.....it's still feces.

If some of the grammar and spelling is off I apologize. I was too busy to go to English practice. Or to quote one of the self appointed spokesmen of the NBA. "Practice?! We're talkin' about practice man."

Anonymous said...

mainstream america cannot tell a criminal from a fellow with characters. this is how ken lay and the enron fellas got away with what they did for so long.

they don't like the nba and the lack of character the players are starting to show...make them all wear suits like enron executives. america accepts criminal behavior when you don't dress like an urban black kid, even though that is what you are.

there is a pretty good discussion on this issue here:

http://wilsonisms.blogspot.com/2005/10/you-can-take-boy-out-hood.html