If ever a bullshit policy required an eloquent spokesperson, David Stern is most certainly the man for the job. From ESPN.com’s Chris Sheridan.
Sheridan: The policy has been called “racist.” Do people throw around a loaded word like that too easily?
Stern: Well, things involve race. Whenever you have a league in which some significant percentage is black, then things involve race. That’s just the way it’s going to be. When you have a league like the WNBA that has all women in it, you’re going to end up with gender issues. That’s just dependent on the composition of the league.
But there’s a difference between involving race and having actions interpreted as racist.
Sheridan: Are you surprised by the way racism has been thrown into this debate?
Stern: No, because it was thrown into the issue of raising the entry age. That was an issue that was absolutely, positively about basketball, to have better players, older and more experienced, to have better business by being able to look at players a year later so you can tell whether you were making a good investment or not.
And frankly, given the percentage of all players who happen to be African-Americans, all it means is you’d be drafting and signing 19-year-old African-Americans instead of 18-year-old African-Americans. But at least in the media it became an issue that was somewhat involved with race.
If you listen to the morning shows and you listen to the discussion, it’s actually kind of a healthy discussion. “Should there be a limit? Should there be a professional dress policy? Should athletes be any different than other workers who know what is expected of them when they’re on the job, in terms of dress … or not?” I don’t think it’s a bad discussion. I think it’s healthy, and it shows we have the capacity to engage.
Our season begins next Tuesday, and we’ve gotten as much ink on the dress policy than the preseason. But that shouldn’t surprise us. Magic Johnson, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Latrell Sprewell, Allen [Iverson’s] rap record. It’s the NBA, we’re an accelerator, and actually, that’s OK. We’re live, unscripted drama, we’re a soap opera, on the court and off the court, and we provide an awful lot of programming in both places to a lot of outlets, including yours.