Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio


Dress code is about money, and that's OK

As I sit at my desk in the sports department writing this column, I'm wearing jeans, a long-sleeved, collared shirt and a sports coat. Right out of the new NBA players dress code.

My choice.

If tomorrow my bosses told me to don a three-piece suit and cuff-linked monogrammed shirt, accessorized with a silk tie and Cole Haan shoes, I would comply (although not happily).

It's their business, their call.

NBA commissioner David Stern made a purely financial decision when he implemented a dress code requiring the league's players to dress "business casual" before and after games.

Stern and his fashion police want their players to "dress up" to impress corporate America, which has been recoiling from the NBA's hip-hop image, but especially since last year's frightening Pistons-Pacers brawl involving fans at the Palace.

No sleeveless shirts, shorts or T-shirt allowed. No jerseys and baseball caps for postgame interviews. No sunglasses indoors. No chains, medallions or pendants worn over clothes.

Stern is trying to erase the image of the ugly NBA player by making his product more attractive to the sponsors and advertisers who pay the league's bills.

So what that the game itself is badly in need of repair? Stern wants his players to look the part, even if the game has become nearly unwatchable.

The fact that the majority of NBA players are black, while most of the ticket-buying and television-watching public is overwhelmingly white, middle-class and male, is a fact of life that should be discussed and examined, but by no means should Stern's decision be considered racist.

If you don't believe that race matters in America, then you're blind to what happened last weekend in North Toledo.

A league dominated by black players, whose behavior and fashion offend the NBA's biggest financial supporters, is a league in trouble.

The dress code isn't about attracting more fans. It's strictly about business and improving the NBA brand.

In truth, the NBA long ago went away from appealing to the middle-aged, white audience that passionately supported the league in the glory days of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

You can tell the NBA lost touch with that audience because of the league's insistence on appealing to a more youthful market with disposable income that spends millions of dollars on designer sneakers, sweat suits and throwback jerseys marketed by the players (ironically, merchandise the players can no longer wear to and from games).

Heck, I'm a 47-year-old black man, and I'm turned off by the way the NBA markets style over substance, potential over production.

More NBA players don't have a problem with the dress code than those who do. That's good, because clothes don't make the man.

Players who do have a problem should take up their concerns with union head Billy Hunter, who agreed to a dress code during collective bargaining - an agreement that rank-and-file members voted for.

As for those players who can't comply with a dress code, there's a seat on the And 1 Tour bus with their name on it.

Any takers?

Didn't think so.

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