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Nov. 1, 2005

Pro/Con: A uniform policy

by Ethan Kuhnhenn, Online Managing Editor and Abe Schwadron, Online Managing Editor
Last week, the NBA announced that it would be implementing a league-wide dress code for all players and personnel, effective at the start of the 2005-2006 season, which tips off on Tuesday. The dress code- stressed as "business casual"- states that players should dress in professional attire during all team and league activities and publicity-related events. The dress code forbids the wearing of hats, "do-rags," chains, medallions, jeans, sneakers and jerseys while players are on the team bench, at press conferences or on team trips.

The league's decision to implement the dress code has prompted an outcry from both players and fans who say that the idea of prohibiting athletes to wear such clothing as hats, jerseys and headbands contradicts the NBA's undeniable link with hip-hop. Philadelphia's Allen Iverson and Indiana's Stephen Jackson have said that the dress code, which explicitly bans players from wearing the baggy jeans, tees and jerseys that have become a mainstay for many of the league's young African American players, directly attacks the hip-hop culture. League commissioner David Stern, on the other hand, stressed that the code was intended to clean up the image of the NBA's players and set a uniform, professional standard. So is the NBA's new dress code justified?

The courtside attire modeled here by Sixers' guard Allen Iverson is outlawed by the new NBA dress code.
The courtside attire modeled here by Sixers' guard Allen Iverson is outlawed by the new NBA dress code.


Ethan says YES: A step towards altering the league's tarnished image

NBA Commissioner David Stern's decision to implement a league wide dress code is integral to maintaining the professionalism and integrity of a league that has tarnished its image in recent years.

Here's an example: The Washington Post reported Sunday that when the Serbian national basketball team arrived in Belgrade last year, at a dinner hosted by the U.S. men's basketball team, all of the players on the squad were neatly dressed in matching sports coats and pants. To the horror of U.S. coach Larry Brown, many of the players on his team sauntered into the restaurant sporting baggy jeans, sprawling t-shirts and flipped-back pinwheel hats. It wouldn't be fair to link the men's sloppy dress to their sloppy play in the Olympics, but by dressing in less-than casual attire, the US sqaud, which "represents" American basketball, appeared to give a collective middle finger to the Serbian team which respectfully dressed their best.

The dress code- hailed by some NBA players and labeled "racist" by others- does not attack hip-hop culture as some critics contend. It merely establishes a needed level of professionalism for team and league business. The dress code is just one of a few small steps that Stern has taken to polish the image of an NBA that has suffered considerably in recent years. The Kobe Bryant rape charge in 2003 and last year's brawl between the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers, as well as the countless other incidents that have appeared in sports sections around the country (weapons charges, perjury, drug charges, DUIs etc.) have hurt the NBA fan base.

The NBA is a corporation and the athletes are its employees. It is reasonable to request that employees abide by some rules- especially when they're getting paid millions upon millions of dollars every year. The bottom line is that image plays a major part in business, even off the court.

A fan who sees Allen Iverson in a suit will associate none of the negative stigma that surrounds the "thug" image with the sharply dressed NBA star. More important, if its players dress professionally, the NBA will not receive any of the negativity produced by the messages in hip-hop culture- and who do the NBA players work for again?

Although it's undeniable that hip-hop is intertwined with basketball, it is ridiculous to assert that Stern is trying to break up this relationship with the new dress code. Stern and the rest of the administration have and will continue to acknowledge hip-hop's innate partnership with basketball. Rap music will continue to be played at games, hip-hop stars will continue to be side-line spectacles and Ron Artest will continue to appear in Tony Yayo music videos. The only difference now is that athletes will have to dress up a little bit for their five minute post-game confrence. A "racist" attack on hip-hop? That's a little harsh.

Also, athletes like Iverson who complain that the code is an "attack on hip hop culture" should take a look at some of the brightest stars in hip-hop. Kanye West—the Louis Vuitton Don—brags about shopping at GAP for polos, while Jay-Z is often seen sporting expensive designer suits (and he's a co-owner of the Nets).

So, even if creating a dress code only means that athletes who have previously dressed as "thugs" come off as a little less intimidating or stigmatized, then so be it. These players have an obligation to their entire fan base, not just to the hip-hop loving inner-city kids who emulate them. Commissioner David Stern is correct. The NBA needs a dress code.

Abe says NO: A misguided approach and an attack on hip-hop culture

The newly implemented NBA code is an attack on the "hip-hop generation," the culture, lifestyle and personal expression of players and is a misguided approach to righting the league's image problem.

David Stern's sudden realization that the NBA's supposed "thug" image is a reflection of the league's players is hypocrisy at its finest. For Stern and the NBA to reject hip-hop culture in its entirety now is ridiculous. What music is played in NBA arenas? Hip-hop. Who wears NBA jerseys in their music videos? Hip-hop artists. Who are courtside mainstays in NBA arenas? Hip-hop artists. Hip-hop is a culture that has been embraced by the NBA for decades. The relationship between hip-hop and the NBA, good or bad, is firmly established.

Stern's new dress code is a direct attack on the young generation of NBA players who love and live hip-hop. The NBA is saying a collective "pull up your pants, young man" to its players.

The NBA's dress code is an issue that sparks calls of "racism" that are not so outlandish. When was the last time a white NBA player sported a throwback jersey, a do-rag and a chain at their post-game press conference? To dismiss the dress code as a total non-racial issue would be ignorant. The regulations are more of a restriction on visible black players who are symbolic of hip-hop culture than on unheralded white players who dress in a fashion representing their own culture, which for the most part conveniently fits under the new rules.

The NBA is right in realizing that it has a big image problem, and the issue was brought to the forefront by Pistons-Pacers brawl in November of last year, but a league-wide dress code is not the way to go about changing it. Not only is the dress code a decided harassment of the hip-hop generation, but it will also prove to be ineffective. As Sixers' star Allen Iverson put it, "You can put a murderer in a suit and he's still a murderer." The players' dress alone will not shed the link between the NBA and hip-hop because players will still walk, talk and act like they did when they wore what they wanted. Players will side-step the new rules by wearing outlandish and creative forms of "suits" and "casual attire," causing more disunity between generations than unity. According to ESPN.com, Pacers star Ron Artest has vowed to wear zoot suits and crazy gear while still adhering to the dress code in order to stick it to Stern.

Furthermore, if the NBA's dress code is allowed to proceed, what restrictions will be put in place next? Will Stern and his old regime restrict the hair, tattoos and endorsement deals of players?

The concern of league officials that the "thug" image perpetuated by NBA players is seeping into the minds of young fans is completely justified. However, the majority of kids who look up to NBA players as role models never see them at press conferences or at dinners with the Serbian national team. The kids see Iverson and other players on television in uniform or in commercials, when the players express the hip-hop culture so feared by Stern and NBA officials. MTV and commercials, more so than "league affairs," are what shape kids' mental link between basketball and urban society.

The dress code's attempt to wipe the hip-hop image from the world's view of the NBA tells players that their individuality and their culture is looked down upon and considered inferior. Why? Because they wear oversized clothing? The dress code is personality-stifling and fake. The dress code is a temporary band-aid to a deep wound, plastic surgery for something that needs a societal overhaul.

Yes, wearing a suit is a sign of professionalism, and many superstars choose to don suits by choice, but being well-dressed should not be an institutionalized rule that rejects individuality. The dress code should not be hailed as the complete repairing of an image tarnished more by actions than illustrations, but instead as a foolish and likely ineffective method of doing away with an image once embraced by the NBA. Stern and his boys ought to be addressing the reasons why the NBA's players are increasingly a part of police blotters, instead of worrying about whether they are wearing Armani or Adidas.



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  • RU on November 1, 2005 at 6:41 PM
    Well-argued on both sides.

    To Ethan: It IS an attack on hip-hop culture. To Abe: It's not racist, and saying so is not ignorant. The fact is that the majority of playors who are IN the NBA are black, so the majority of players that will be affected by this are black. There are many white players who dress casually (Jayson Williams and Vlade Divac, even though he retired last year), and there are many black players who dress well (Shaq and Kobe).

    The dress code is a sign that Stern is uneasy about the league's marriage to the hip-hop culture...is it hypocritical? Maybe. But it's nothing compared to NFL hypocrisy, which is another subject entirely...
  • Show some respect on November 1, 2005 at 7:04 PM
    I say darn the police, thats how I treat em
    We buy our way out of jail, but we can't buy freedom
    We'll buy a lot of clothes when we don't really need em
    Things we buy to cover up what's inside
    Cause they make us hate ourself and love they wealth
    That's why shortys hollering "where the ballas' at?"

    yes, the NBA is intertwined with hip-hop culture, but its about time someone realized that its not a mutually beneficial relationship and is incredibly damaging to the young fans that admire the players. Theres a time and place for do-rags and bling. On the basketball court, which is essentially the workplace for balllers, a level of professionalism must be established. Basketball players make millions promoting Nike and Mercedes, but as a result, they have embraced a lifestyle that promotes violence, rejects academic achievement, and emphasizes the status of the wealthy. Grow up, son.
  • nice on November 1, 2005 at 8:01 PM
    good points on both sides
  • // (View Email) on November 1, 2005 at 8:21 PM
    Who says that the dress code was only to deal with the hip-hop image? I think making hip-hop part of the argument is counter productive if youre against this dress code.
  • Da Vanilla Killah on November 2, 2005 at 8:15 AM
    If this indeed only applies to players at "team and league activities and publicity-related events," then i see no problem with the dress code. To youngsters, these players may be gods, delivering a message of money and fame, but on the court, and at team-activities, these people are employees, just like the guy running 7-11. They should adhere to a level of professionalism that reflects the significance of their job. Its fine if street ballers, playing for respect on their local courts, wear heavy gold chains and pants that wouldnt fit a whale, but these basketball players are paid an unseemly amount for the relatively easy work that they do. This is an issue of etiquitte, and its perfectly acceptable for the league to require a level of formality from their players. The casual, flamboyant, trying-so-hard-not-to-look-poor look of the players is completely unnecessary
  • Junnie (View Email) on November 2, 2005 at 8:33 AM
    The Hip Hop style is more associated with "slash and dash" or "soar and bore" than a three piece suit. B. Ball may have started in college, but grew in outdoor urban courts, played by urban dwellers. Mr Stern may have taken a step in the wrong direction.
  • wow on November 2, 2005 at 6:44 PM
    first of all, the NBA is horrible. I haven't been able to sit through an entire game since Jordan left the Bulls. Real basketball is played at the colligate level, not in the NBA. The players in the NBA need to take a few ques from the youngsters. One, TEAM basketball. The U.S. barely came away with the bronze in the olympics because they didn't play any defence, and they failed to play as a team. Two, when college players are on the bench for any reason, injury or other, they either ware the team warmups or a suit. These guys aren't even payed.
    Also, Allen Iverson is out of his mind, saying that the NBA should have to PAY for their new suits.??? they already pay him for his clothes, just look at his several million a year contract, he had better be able to afford some suits of his own.
    Again he should take a que from a younger man in the form of Lebron James. ""No it's not a big deal, not to me," LeBron James said. "Sometimes you feel lazy and you don't feel like putting some clothes on, but this is a job." this kid is more mature than half the league.
  • alexa on November 2, 2005 at 7:54 PM
    I think that the new dress code is reasonable. I play varsity athletics for my college, and when we go on away games, our coaches have what amount to dress codes for us. When we're going straight from the bus to the locker room at away games, we all wear our matching team warm-ups. It promotes team unity and helps us focus for the upcoming game. If we're going out anywhere after an away game (to dinner on an overnight trip, etc) we all have to dress up (nothing you wouldn't wear to see your grandma). Sloppy dress and behavior reflects poorly on our team and on the college, and I think that is something both my school and the NBA understand--if you look sharp, people will know you're there for work and not play. NBA players are some of the highest paid individuals in the United States--like Ethan said, playing basketball is their job and the NBA is their boss. I think it is a reasonable decision that NBA players should stick by.
  • maybe on November 8, 2005 at 9:24 AM
    to wow: no your wrong.

    on another note: the dress code is reasonable but its taking away from the image of NBA players. a lot of kids look up to them as cool, athletic role models. Seeing them in suits makes it seem a bit more lame.

    however, it is their job, and most jobs require that you don't wear chains. i think it limits the freedom of african american players, but that was not the intended effect Stern had in mind.
  • .. on November 12, 2005 at 9:50 PM
    how does lookinfg fresh, make you look lame?
  • maybe not on November 12, 2005 at 9:52 PM
    what are you talking about? the NBA sucks. college basketball is so much more exciting. the same is true with the NFL and college football.
  • dress codes on November 15, 2005 at 4:24 PM
    The dress code is alright. They shouldn't complain; *some teams (Like the Knicks) have already had a dress code for a long time. And any way hip hop artist can wear suits to.

    the nba doesnt suck to everyone, thats a matter of opinion kids.

    some teams already have em.
  • Tyler Rogers (View Email) on November 28, 2005 at 11:34 AM
    I think that the dress code 4 the NBA is the best decision David Stern has made as the commisiner. The fight last year Kobes rape charge and numerous offenses(dui, drug charges domestic violence...) have all tarnished the NBA's image. This was a very smart decision By the commisner. I totally agree.
  • joe on January 8, 2006 at 4:41 PM
    i think that the dress code is wrong, people should beable to dress how they want to. nobody should tell them what to wear.
  • tommy staheli (View Email) on February 15, 2006 at 1:35 PM
    The NBA dress code is perfectly necessary, because more than half of the jobs in the United States of America have a dress code. So why shouldn't the NBA have one?
  • Christina Broom on March 22, 2006 at 8:33 AM
    I think that its wrong that people all around the earth shouldn't have to wear school Uniforms they should have the right to wear whatever they want to not what the government want's them to wear cause I think that the school Uniforms are so ugly and you wouldn't catch me wearing a uniform if its the last thing on earth to wear.
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