Dress codes are for racists
by Joseph Hughes, Thu Oct 20, 2005 at 07:21:28 AM EDT
I'm not here to argue the dress code's legality - I'd rather leave that to the more litigious types among us. But the racial undertone at play here is unmistakable. And so is the hypocrisy.
A long or short-sleeved dress shirt (collared or turtleneck), and/or a sweater; dress slacks, khaki pants, or dress jeans; and appropriate shoes and socks, including dress shoes, dress boots, or other presentable shoes, but not including sneakers, sandals, flip-flops, or work boots.Seems obvious enough - almost as obvious as the players' predictably negative initial reaction. Now take a look at the items prohibited thanks to the code:
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).You don't have to be a genius to see which NBA players this code will affect most. And that's just the point. This, to me, is a cultural crackdown, an older generation preaching to the new schoolers. Anytime you have predominantly white management telling predominantly African American employees what to do - especially how to look - it's no surprise when words like "racism" get thrown around. For good reason. And if the players don't like it? Tough, says league commissioner David Stern. "If they are really going to have a problem," he told ESPN, "they will have to make a decision about how they want to spend their adult life in terms of playing in the NBA or not."
Without a doubt, the NBA has had an image problem recently, especially following last season's vicious brawl between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons. The fight, if you'll recall, featured multiple players engaging in fisticuffs with fans throughout the arena, as well as fighting on the court and general disorderly conduct by all involved.
Yes, the punishment was swift and severe, but the debate lingered: Is this the NBA that players and officials would like to promote? Sure, Stern would rather have you seeing superstars like LeBron James fly through the air non-stop, but let's not forget the league's recent past.
Did the NBA do anything to stop the Detroit Pistons' "Bad Boys" teams? Of course not; in fact, they promoted it. As I wrote shortly after the Pacers/Pistons brawl, video of Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn fouling opponents hard was almost more common than the on-court acrobatics of Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars' steady play. Instead of putting a stop to this behavior, the NBA helped promote the Bad Boys culture, leading no doubt to more recent incidents and the urge to impose a rigid dress code.
But the NBA itself isn't the only party responsible for promoting the predominant league "lifestyle." Networks like ESPN ceaselessly rebroadcast video of the fight, to say nothing of their steady stream of flashy, slam-dunk driven highlights. The same "playa" lifestyle the NBA low looks to suppress is given constant exposure thanks to shows like "MTV Cribs" and "Ride with Funkmaster Flex." And that's only the tip of the iceberg.
While trying to clean up its reputation, the NBA itself seemingly has no problem continuing to promote its street image. Look no further than the NBA's own video games Web site, where offerings like "NBA Ballers" and "NBA Street V3" are promoted. One of the "NBA Ballers" selling points is that it's the "Exclusive one-on-one basketball videogame highlighting the 'bling-bling' lifestyle of NBA superstars."
Seems like the "bling-bling" lifestyle is just fine when it comes to making the league money - so long as the "ballers" themselves know their place. And keep their mouths shut, too, else they'll face stiff fines for speaking out. Theirs is not to question why; theirs is but to dunk and fly.
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