NBA’s New Dress Code
NBA commissioner David Stern set forth the league’s new dress code for players today and implied that those who refused to comply would be suspended.
NBA commissioner David Stern spoke out for the first time on the specifics of the league’s new off-the-court dress code on Tuesday. Despite objections from players like Allen Iverson, who said he will fight to wear clothes in which he is most comfortable, Stern said he was “certain that it will be complied with.” Although Stern wouldn’t say exactly how he would enforce the new regulations — which, among other things, require injured players seated on the bench to wear a sports jacket and outlaw chains, pendants or medallions over the player’s clothes while on team or league business — he did say that the league “will use a broad range of authority” to enforce compliance. “If they are really going to have a problem, 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,” Stern said.
Stern said he believed that much of the recent criticism over the league-imposed rules had to do with the fact that the players didn’t know the specifics, which were released in a memo to the teams on Monday. Calling the rules “quite liberal and easy going,” Stern even joked that the dress code is something that “even (Dallas Mavericks owner) Mark Cuban can comply with.” But Cuban, who often wears T-shirts and jeans to games — told ESPN.com that there was “no chance, no way” that he would comply with the league’s off-the-court dress code for its players. Sleeveless shirts are not allowed under the policy.
Iverson, whose do-rag will now be banned, recently told the Philadelphia Daily News that “just because you put a guy in a tuxedo, it doesn’t mean he’s a good guy.”
Stern said the clothing that is suggested is universally thought of as appropriate for someone while they are in the spotlight. “There are different uniforms for different occasions,” Stern said. “There’s the uniform you wear on the court, there’s the uniform you wear when you are on business, there’s the uniform you might wear on your casual downtime with your friends and there’s the uniform you might wear when you go back home. We’re just changing the definition of the uniform that you wear when you are on NBA business.”
Stern kidded that certain players might receive a special stipend to buy new clothes. “We don’t know where the cut-off is, maybe if you earn less than $8 million, you’ll get a scholarship from the commissioner,” Stern said. The joke was in reference to the comment made last week by Denver Nuggets center Marcus Camby, who reportedly told The Rocky Mountain News that he didn’t see players complying with the new rules unless every player received a clothing allowance. Camby is scheduled to make more than $7 million in salary this season.
In a related story, a collegiate athlete is being ordered to wear aidas shoes even though he fears they will cause him injury:
Arkansas State’s leading returning scorer is sitting out because he refuses to wear adidas shoes, which Indians players are obligated to wear because of a school contract. Jerry Nichols, a 6-6 outside shooter who averaged 9.6 points per game last year, has had two knee operations and said he was wearing adidas shoes when he first hurt the knee. The school says Nichols has to dress by its rules. “We have a contractual agreement with [adidas], and it’s not any different than any number of other contracts with other schools. There is not any stipulation or any research that shows any shoes are worse than any others,” Arkansas State athletic director Dean Lee told The Jonesboro Sun newspaper.
Nichols, who last year shot 41.8 percent from 3-point range, practiced over the weekend while wearing Nike shoes, placing tape to cover the brand’s insignia. Nichols met with Lee on Monday, and Nichols was told to wear adidas shoes or sit. Nichols sat.
“We’ve been producing outstanding quality equipment for years,” said Terrell Clark, an adidas spokesman. “We take this very seriously and we are looking to handle this in a positive manner.”
Nichols said he was wearing adidas shoes when he suffered a knee injury in 2001 while playing for Walters State Community College. “I tore my ACL in adidas in junior college back in 2001, and I’m not comfortable wearing adidas,” Nichols said.
In both cases, athletes are being ordered to comply with an arbitrary dress code because the sports authority over them has decided doing so will be profitable. I tend to side with management in most of these cases, on the principle that the ones taking the most risk should be able to decide how to run their businesses. In both of these instances, though, I side with the players.
I understand Stern’s desire to shed the NBA’s image as a thug league and can see how he thinks having his players dress in a manner similar to professionals in other arenas is a reasonable part of that. Further, I’ve long been a suit-and-tie guy, even in work environments where I could wear what I wanted and being so attired put me in a minority among my peers. Still, the NBA operates under a collective bargaining agreement and I see no reason why management should be able to unilaterally make such a major change in working conditions outside the collective bargaining process. If Stern wants his employees to dress in a corporate manner 24/7, then he should negotiate for that concession.
Furthermore, the modern professional athlete is a brand name unto himself. While I have a strong distate for the way Iverson and others costume themselves off the court, it clearly seems to work for the marketing demographic they’re seeking to reach. To the extent the NBA brand and the individual player “brands” are at odds, again, this should be the object of negotiation rather than dictate.
I’m even more sympathetic to Nichols than to his NBA counterparts, since they’re at least getting rich. It would be one thing if he insisted on wearing blue shoes when the rest of the team was wearing white. The team has a reasonable interest in promoting uniformity. That’s not what this rule is about, though. They’re forcing the players to be human billboards in an ostensibly amateur endeavor in order to line the pockets of everyone but the players. While I’m sure there’s nothing inherent in the design of aididas shoes that contributed to Nichols’ injury–I’ve worn their shoes off and on since 7th grade–the association is clearly there in his mind and may well be a self-fulfilling prophecy on the court if he’s worried about his footwear.