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Thursday, February 09, 2006
Defending the NBA Dress Code

I have been an outspoken critic of the new NBA Dress code, and will even be publishing a law review article on it (and a few other issues). But I'd like to post an well-reasoned opposing view. My good friend Lindsey McDaniel is a high school basketball coach in Georgia, and here is his take:
The new NBA dress code was needed yesterday. We have gone from the images of a well-dressed Michael Jordan in his Armani suits to the images of guys who have slaughtered the "moral dress code." Players such as Allen Iverson with his "Do-rags" and baggy clothes gives the impression to the younger generation that poor attire is socially acceptable. It isn't, and they are worse off thinking that it is.

I say all this as an African-American male. I just think there is a time and place for this type of appearance, such as when you are off the clock. Besides, the NBA is a business, and just because you make millions of dollars playing a child's game doesn't mean that you can circumvent the rules, especially when someone else is paying your salary--and that person makes a lot more money than you.

Also remember, the dress code for the NBA is just like a dress code for any other company or business, and if you want to remain a part of an organization, then you must follow the rules. It's as simple as that. If you reflect back to 1996, when Allen Iverson was a sophomore at Georgetown University (and, by coincidence, a classmate of Michael McCann). He was wondering if he would be drafted and at what point in the draft would he be selected. During this time, he would have DONE anything to guarantee a shot at the NBA. So, hypothetically, if David Stern had approached him and said, "Allen, we can guarantee you a great contract with the Philadelphia Sixers, and it will pay you guaranteed millions of dollars for several years, but please read the bottom line of the contract before you sign, as it states: 'You must agree to this dress code policy for the duration of your career.'" I bet the house that.Iverson would have signed that contract before Stern got the last word out of his mouth. Not once would he have said,"Man I don't know, because I like to be comfortable." So at that point it was either the Sixers in the NBA or working from 9 - 6 at the local grocery store. Do you have any doubt as to what he would have done?

So for all these big-time, 7-digit salary NBA players who have become "comfortable," and feel that they are above the rules, I ask you to do this: think back to the days when you would have done
anything to play in the NBA. Think back to your first training camp when you were a rookie and you actually respected the NBA for giving you an opportunity to play against the best basketball players in the world and for an enormous amount of money. And then think about all those guys who are on the outside looking in, and how they are saying, "man, if all they want me to do is wear a suit and look respectful for their organization, and they are going to pay me millions of dollars to play the sport I love, I would do that in a heart beat." I ask you to think about those guys, just for a moment, before the next time you complain about "being comfortable." You might just re-think what you are about to say.

It's time to look at the NBA as an organization that can set it's own rules, rather than focusing on a bunch of individuals . . . who's only concern and care is about being "comfortable."

Lindsey McDaniel


I guess the bigger point is that playing in the NBA isn't mandatory. I love wearing jeans, but I can't at my job. If wearing jeans was that important to me, I would have to find another job. Why is this any different than any other rule that the NBA has? How is this different than Joe Girardi saying that he wants players on the Marlins to have no facial hair? If you don't like the rule, you can try to find your way with another team. If the whole league had that rule, you could go back to school and become a carpenter. When you're taking a check from someone else, you're subject to their rules.

Blogger robin -- 2/09/2006 7:02 PM  

Some seem to forget that the "job" of a player in the NBA is to play basketball. When the game and interviews sessions are over, the player is no longer at work.

The team uniform, therefore, is the "suit," not a suit.

Additionally, I heard no uproar (and no subsequent fine was announced) when Steve Nash walk into an arena in a sweater with a button-down shirt underneath, jeans and sneakers before a televised TNT game - but woe to someone like A.I. who might arrive at a given arena in a throwback jersey over a long-sleeve tee-shirt, a pair of jeans, and sneakers - oh, I forgot, it's the "do-rag" that makes him look so unkempt and thuggish - while nothing is said about Nash.

A racist policy? Do ya think?... what other league has this type of league-wide mandate? Ummm, none.

I'll yell you what, when the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) institutes a dress-code for all tennis professionals, then I'll be all for an NBA dress code.

Blogger D-Wil -- 2/10/2006 5:01 AM  

what is the moral dress code, and why is hip hop gear "poor"? self-hatred is an ugly thing.

Blogger SmittyBanton -- 2/10/2006 11:39 AM  


You can wear jeans at your job if you are important enough.


Also, it is big difference between a particular team having a dress code, and an industry wide dress code to be followed by teams that don't even want it.

Beside a racial issue, it is another antitrust violation (the embodiment of our capitalist, meritocratic system) that is shielded by the ill-interpreted "non-statutory labor exemption to antitrust". Why are so many people in favor of limiting the rights of others?

Why are people so in favor of anti-meritocratic, anti-capitalist policies as they relate to black athletes (industry wide dress code, salary cap, high school ban, limited free agency)? Another writer on this blog said that it is the responsibility of black leadership to provide oppurtunities to blacks. Fighting these rules does just that. Cultural supremacy begets economic supremacy. Hiphop designers, many of them black, were making money of selling clothes to athletes and getting advertising value to boot. Those dollars are not transferred to Armani and the other. Where Karl Kani had the cultural advantage, the league shifted it by mandate to Armani. I am sorry that Mr. McDaniel may not have contemplated this.

Andre Smith

Blogger SmittyBanton -- 2/10/2006 11:49 AM  

"These dollars are now transferred to Armani and others" (typing too fast)

Blogger SmittyBanton -- 2/10/2006 11:50 AM  

I just finsihed reading Michael Eric Dyson's "Is Bill Cosby Right?" (I know, I'm a little late in reading it), and it had several pertinent points on this topic (regarding image, dress, individuality and stereotypes).

I thoroughly recommend the book to anyone who hasn't read it already.

Blogger Satchmo -- 2/10/2006 12:12 PM  

I almost made the counter-argument about there being a difference between a team code and a league code, but I was pressing my luck by posting in class as it was!

I will concede that point, because its a good one.

I know absolutely nothing about the Steve Nash situation, so I'll agree that its unfair, and the rule should be the rule for everyone, not just for some. If its suit and ties, then its suit and ties. Not sweaters and jeans and button down shirts for some.

I think the charge of self hatred is unfair, though. Just my opinion.

All of that aside, why is it that an employee should be able to dictate to an employer what they will or will not wear at work? If women can get fired at Harrah's casino for not wearing makeup (Jespersen v Harrah's which is going to be reheard, if I understand correctly) then how can a league not hand down a dress code?

Blogger robin -- 2/10/2006 12:48 PM  


You are right. The charge of self hatred was premature and unfair. I apologize to Mr. McDaniel for that.

Andre Smith

Blogger SmittyBanton -- 2/10/2006 12:59 PM  

Smittybanton stated that I have some self hatred. If educating over 200 African American kids in my youth basketball program is demonstrating self-hatred then that I am. My question to you is what have you done lately......for the inner city youth in which you couldn' write off on your taxes. Yes there are many out there just like you who want to pretend you are for the cause......when you don't even know what the cause is. Therefore, Mr. Hip Hop wanna be......keep pretending and any time you want to come visit my group of kids and debate with me in front of them......please bring it on. That is if you can find your "Can't touch this t-shirt"

Blogger Lindsey -- 2/11/2006 12:19 AM  


You have taken the defensive for the black athlete, and it is only a front to show the "homeboys"...."Hey dude I may be a part of corporate American, but I'm down".

You want to take a stand, how about coming into the mean streets of the ATL, in your flashy vehicle, leave your keys in it for 5 minutes and go inside a convenience store.....I hope you bought a bus ticket to get you home. I think you are closer to being a "Sell Out" than I am to self hatred. I don't accept apologies from "sell outs"

Blogger Lindsey -- 2/11/2006 12:28 AM  

"you can wear jeans to your job if you are important enough"
that is one horrible statement, when a great trial attorney practices for a big corp, he is allwed to wear jeans? NO.
It is called an image, and a look the NBA needs to improve. It is also about marketing. They need to make money, and the "hip hop image" is not drawing enough money or making the league successful. that is what it boils down to.
It is called being professional and respectful
being classy. When you represent your company at functions you are too represent them with respect and respect the image THEY WANT YOU TO PORTRAY!
If you do no like the rules of the job, dont take it, go flip burgers and wear that bling and baggy sweats.
The better companies in this world are associated with a better image of being classy, and that is what the NBA is shooting for.
People who cry racism about this are just plain rude to the situation and rules of the employer, the NBA.

Anonymous tommie -- 2/11/2006 1:22 AM  

Re: Steve Nash -- I'm not sure I'm getting the point. Nash wasn't fined because what he wore is expressly permitted by the dress code. Players don't have to wear suits -- jeans and sweaters are (and have always been) acceptable.

Blogger Nye! -- 2/11/2006 8:00 AM  

I certainly didn't mean to escalate the tone of this conversation! If my comments did that, it was certainly not what I intended.

I understood what he meant by the "if you're important enough" comment because, in a way, he's right. Not in the general sense of if you're a trial attorney you're expected to dress like a professional (which is ALSO correct) but in the sense of if your name is on the letterhead, you can wear whatever you want, but the REST of the minions had better dress according to the dress code. That is true. So, if you're important enough, you can wear jeans.

And, maybe for some the two can't be separated, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that the underlying reasons for this policy is completely color/culturally netural. What I'm saying is this is an image battle where even if the players lose, the players win. So they have to dress a certain way while they are on the job (even if they are on the bench.) They aren't losing face in the community, where even people who don't wear a suit and tie to work everyday understand that there is a slididng scale between the amount of money you make and how you are expected to dress for work. And, they are projecting a more professional appearance for the NBA, in turn, making them more money. (using some crazy trickle down method....)

As a side note, even my dad (who will be 74 next week) complained about the way the players dressed and thinks they look much better on the sidelines now. He also complained when the dress code became a rule because he thought it was racist as well. Not that they had to wear suits, but that they were TOLD to wear suits.

And as I haven't seen the exact statement of the dress code, I'll let ya'll debate that Steve Nash thing.

Blogger robin -- 2/11/2006 9:30 AM  

So who in the NBA is so important that they can wear jeans? If anyone, David Stern. However, it is his league and he has the the right to set the image. If he wants to wear jeans and tell everyone else to, so be it. If he wants to wear a suit and tell everyone else to, so be it.
Also, these players represent the teams and the NBA when they are on the court, the bench, at interviews, and at the hotels. There is also an on court dress code that is very strict, such as no baggy shorts. However Commissioner Stern has this right to enforce.

Anonymous tommie -- 2/11/2006 11:23 AM  

Not to return the issue to "sports law," but...

Wondering if there is any law on whether the dress code is a "mandatory" or a "permissive" subject of collective bargaining. In other words, if at the next bargaining session for an NBA collective bargaining agreement, the union wants to discuss the dress code, does the league have a duty to bargain about it in good faith? Is a dress code a "condition of employment" under the NLRA?

Because if the dress code is a mandatory subject, then it's hard to feel bad for players (even if dress codes are inherently silly). Players can just get their union reps to demand a change.

Geoffrey Rapp

Anonymous Geoffrey Rapp -- 2/12/2006 7:28 PM  


If a TEAM wishes to institute a dress code for its employees (players) this would be within their right.

But for a LEAGUE to do so is inappropriate at least and possible an attempt to demonstrate "power and control" over EMPLOYEES of other entities.

Blogger ADVOCATE -- 2/13/2006 10:58 AM  

This is an interesting problem to adress. It is my opinion that both arguments are meritorious, but the final resolution should be bargained over between the players union and the NBA administration.

My particular concern is for the WNBA. Is it fair to assume that an NBA dress code will effect the WNBA such that they will require players to dress in a more feminine manner when making appearances? This could be a much more hotly conested debate because it implications would include not only race but also gender. I hope the NBA hasn't set a precedent that will cause future problems for the sports industry.

On the other hand, it could open up a whole new market for Nike or Adidas formal wear . . .

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/13/2006 8:03 PM  

Hey Advocate,
The players get money from the NBA and the NBPA. How can you say the relation is not strong enough where there is no employer/employee relationship.
The NBA is loaded with incentives for players, from pensions to jersey sales to other things.
The teams make money off the NBA, therefore they work for the NBA as well. That is like saying if you work for a compay like Home Depot, you work for that store only and not the corporate headquarters. Corporate headquarters at companies like that sets rules for their employees, which ALL TEAMS must follow.

Anonymous tommie -- 2/14/2006 8:14 AM  

Mr. Lindsey,

I'd love to debate you in the mean streets of Atlanta. I guess I'll jump in my flashy Honda Accord, and my suburban West Philadelphia roots, and be so scared of you and your class. Please. I'll debate you as to this issue anywhere, and especially in front of your students. I am on the FIU College of Law website. You can contact me any way you'd like.

Blogger SmittyBanton -- 2/17/2006 2:46 PM  


Fortune 500 Ceo's do wear jeans and some wear cowboy hats, because they are important enough. period. your conclusions to the contrary evidence your inexperience.


Blogger SmittyBanton -- 2/17/2006 2:54 PM  

Mr. Lindsey,

Also, your assumption that I could not have come from the city, or the mean streets of Rivderdale, Ga, is very illuminating.

Blogger SmittyBanton -- 2/17/2006 3:32 PM  


Anonymous FRANK -- 12/08/2006 11:14 AM  

Got 15% off on the purchase of sports dresses from USCHO Store...

Anonymous Lis -- 4/05/2008 7:33 AM  

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