Dress code for NBA players unfair

By Joseph Baskerville

Last Monday, NBA Commissioner David Stern enforced a new dress code for all NBA players.

For those who may not follow sports, or have not been paying attention to the NBA over the summer, the days of Allen Iverson and other NBA stars wearing “street” clothes are over, even if they are walking from the bus to the locker room.

According to ESPN.com, players won’t be able to wear sleeveless shirts, shorts, T-shirts, chains, pendants, or medallions over the player’s clothes, sunglasses while indoors, [and] headphones (other than on the team bus or plane, or in the locker room). Injured players seated on the bench must wear a sports jacket and follow the listed guidelines stated above. Players must also follow these rules while conducting interviews and making promotional appearances.

So what’s the reasoning behind this dress code?

Stern, it seems, wants to change the image of the NBA since the now infamous Detroit Pistons-Indiana Pacers brawl that happened on Nov. 19, 2004.

Since that incident, many fans and insiders in the NBA have looked at the league as a bunch of thugs, simultaneously playing and destroying the game they once loved. The dress of certain players seems to emulate that image to these fans and insiders.

Don’t believe this is how some feel? Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson was quoted in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune as saying, “The players have been dressing in prison garb the last five or six years. All the stuff that goes on, it’s like gangster, thuggery stuff. It’s time. It’s been time to do that.”

Thuggery? Gangster? Where is all of this coming from?

Look, I understand the majority of NBA players are hip-hop fanatics, but does that automatically make them gangsters or thugs?

I listen to hip-hop all the time. Does that officially make me the Northern Star’s thug columnist? I have worn the hated, and now NBA-illegal, ‘do rags. Does that up my gangster status like the San Andreas video game?

I would have to agree with Philadelphia 76ers’ All-Star point guard Allen Iverson when he told the Philadelphia Daily News, “Just because you put a guy in a tuxedo, it doesn’t mean he’s a good guy.”

The fact is, since the Pacers-Pistons brawl, the NBA has made two potentially racist changes to the league.

Last summer, after the new collective bargaining agreement was reached on June 21, a new minimum age limit of 19 was set – “plus being one year removed from high school,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution – ending high-school grads’ opportunity of becoming NBA superstars out of the gate. This change would have forced NBA superstars Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady and even Tyson Chandler and former Chicago Bulls center Eddy Curry to waste at least one year at college, risking injuries that could end their potential careers.

Add the new dress code, which targets the hip-hop community that most black players identify with (African-Americans make up most of the population of players in the NBA), and it would seem the higher-ups in the NBA have a definite prejudice.

Many players have voiced their disgust with the age limit and the new dress code. Both Jermaine O’Neal and Stephen Jackson have called at least one of the NBA’s new rules racist at one point.

O’Neal stated publicly on ESPN’s “NBA Action” that he felt the age limit was racist in that it added limits to a different style of ball player and took opportunities from many urban youths.

Jackson, who is 27, said just before an exhibition game Tuesday about the dress code that “I think it’s a racist statement because a lot of the guys who are wearing chains are my age and are black. I wore all my jewelry today to let it be known that I’m upset with it.”

To briefly digress, it’s funny how the NBA will gladly use the hip-hop ‘street’ image for countless commercials, and video games like the NBA Street video game series, but is quick to discard that image whenever they see fit.

Whether you believe the new rules brought out of the collective bargaining agreement are racist or prejudiced is up to you.

I just don’t understand why men, playing a game for a living, have to be told to wear suits after the real work is done.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.