That the NBA’s new dress code is being imposed on a bunch of millionaires who can afford their own fancy threads, isn’t offensive, in and of itself. That the league has made such a rule without consulting the Players Association, however, smacks of trying to appeal to some of the print and broadcast media’s worst instincts. Surely David Stern knows that any player who publicly complains about the code risks ridicule from the yack radio merchants, much as the Pacers’ Stephen Jackson was accused by ESPN Radio’s of “playing the race card”. It’s incredible how often someone in the sports world suggests that their ethnic or racial group has been singled out and/or they’ve personally been discriminated against, their argument is instantly dismissed by deep thinkers such as Coleman claiming “they’re playing the race card. ”
This week, David Stern banned Mahatma Gandhi (no sports coat), Gen. George Patton (too many silver medals) and Jesus Christ (sandals) from ever playing in his league.
They wouldn’t meet the dress code, couldn’t watch from the bench if they suffered a season-ending injury. And soon enough, there are bound to be more modern, less influential exiles: nonconformists like Allen Iverson and Dallas owner Mark Cuban, rebels without a sports coat.
Cultural imperialism is a tricky business, if you’re the NBA commissioner. You want to be as liberal as the next white, middle-aged New York Democrat. You’ve successfully marketed your game for the young, anti-establishment, hip-hop kids.
But then there are those corporate sponsors and TV analysts out there, shaking their heads at the sight of Tim Duncan’s exposed shirttail, or at a million indecipherable tattoos.
The tattoos won’t come off, but the jewelry just might.
It gets confusing in a hurry, this kind of fashion fascism. Why should today’s athletes be bound by the demands of such an ephemeral notion as business style? Their work has nothing to do with office attire. Sports coats are the descendents of the waistcoats worn at the court of Charles II, king of England in the 17th century. They are, by nature and by history, stifling.