Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Friday, March 31, 2006
NBA: No Men in Tights

I'm not sure a comment is even needed:
League and team sources have told that the NBA, starting next season, intends to ban the tights sported at various points this season by several players, including three MVP candidates: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Although NBA officials are not publicly commenting on the issue, sources say that the league simply does not like the look of players wearing visible hose. It's believed that the league office, which already has regulations in place to curtail short lengths, can unilaterally outlaw tights by simply amending its uniform code before the 2006-07 season.

Sources say that the NBA informed its 30 teams at last month's competition committee meeting in Houston that tights would be banned immediately after All-Star Weekend. But the league wound up holding off on that ban, perhaps to avoid a new controversy after the initial furor sparked by the off-court dress code faded quickly and quietly.

Players who wish to wear tights are required to send the league a written request from a team doctor detailing a "medical need" for the leggings. That's because the league, according to sources, believes that some players are merely wearing them because they like the look.

From Darren Rovell and Marc Stein, "League Would Amend Uniform Code to Ban Tights,", Mar. 30, 2006.
I do know that I will have to add discussion of this proposed policy to the draft of my forthcoming law review article, the title of which will tell you how I feel about it: The Reckless Pursuit of Dominion: A Situational Analysis of the NBA and Diminishing Player Autonomy, 8 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law __ (forthcoming, 2006). I invite you to download the draft on the Social Science Research Network ("SSRN") -- the download is free, and all it requires is an SSRN account, which is itself free and which provides you with access to thousands of interesting articles, papers, and drafts.

Thanks to one of my students, Jason Marsh, for passing this inane story along.


Mike- Say what you will about an off-court dress code, you do have to admit that the NBA has far more right (if not an absolute right) to dictate what athletes can and cannot wear on the court. Every league has uniform restrictions that are intended to protect the image of the league, promote uniformity, and prevent the players from using the league's stage to make statements. If the players really have a good reason for wearing tights, then the union will push for it. But if it is more of a fashion statement than a "medical need" (one wonders how Jordan ever managed to play without tights), then the league has every right to ban the practice.

Blogger Greg -- 3/31/2006 6:04 PM  

Greg that would be a good defense if we see players with cramps late in the season or late in games.

Also I'll use the domino effect fallacy argument that I think we will hear from some player: what's next? headbands?!

Blogger Ryguy -- 3/31/2006 6:59 PM  

Headbands are easy. The NBA (Nanny Basketball Association) next move will be to dictate to family members what they can and cannot wear to games.

Anonymous Richard Mock -- 3/31/2006 9:53 PM  

The NBA can restrict things like length of shorts, and similar apparel restrictions. It makes sense to have uniforms that look superficially similar, i.e. you don't want one team in shorts and the other in kilts. Hence the word uniform.

But I'm not sure I get a no-tights rule - if players think it helps them play, why should the NBA argue? It's not like the tights are ugly, distracting, or convey some kind of antiestablishment sentiment.

The problem as I see it is that while there may not be a medical need, except in certain cases, it could be argued that the trend gives players a psychological advantage or confidence. At the least, while a benefit to wearing tights is questionable, they haven't been shown to hurt quality of play.

So if it's not about quality of play, it would seem that the NBA is objecting solely to the superficiality and the fact that it deviates from the normal NBA on-court dress. So the issue becomes more one of taste - are tights garish or different enough to warrant banning. Would the NBA rather all players have to wear tights?

It's one thing to exceed the boundaries of good taste. But since the tights aren't ostensibly distracting to opposing players or the crowd (maybe we can talk about this when the players start wearing patterened tights or tights with bright sequins to distract opposing players), I don't think the NBA should be able to do this.

All I see here is an attempt to curtail player autonomy, for no apparent reason except the need to exert control over the players - the fear that if tights are allowed, other exceptions can be made - knee socks, headgear, etc.

Blogger Satchmo -- 4/01/2006 12:01 AM  

Given that Adam Morrison is likely to be playing in the NBA next year, perhaps the league should also consider banning crying on the court and whispy mustaches?

Blogger Geoffrey Rapp -- 4/01/2006 10:23 AM  

I'm glad that the NBA is so fashion conscious. I think it's about the time for Selig to have a make-over too... that should be their next policy.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/02/2006 12:47 AM  

Greg, regarding your statement earlier, why hasn't the NBA banned Iverson's elbow sleeve, headbands, arm bands, face protectors (which do protect an individual, but then again, "one wonders how Jordan ever managed to play without a face mask), etc? Sources say that league management just doesn't like the "look of tights", but I think they're just threatened because their friends are making fun of them for letting NBA players wear "tights".

With regards to the comment, "one wonders how Jordan ever managed to play without tights", why don't you say, "one wonders how Jordan ever managed to play without a headband?", or one wonders how football players were able to play without visors or underarmour long sleeves underneath their pads. Plus, these type of compression tights weren't even available when Jordan played. Obviously, the league is trying to not look "sissy" but if you're a mature individual, I don't think you'll be too offended by "tights".

Lastly, I agree, it is their league, but maybe they should listen to people when 75% of Americans (according to an ESPN poll - 50000+ voters) don't understand why the league is banning tights (and I'm sure that not all of that 75% think that it's "cool looking").

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/03/2006 4:10 PM  

what a load of nonsense does it really matter if they wear tights or not!


so just let them wear them !

Anonymous v walker -- 6/28/2007 10:32 AM  

thank you

Anonymous kurtlar -- 2/11/2009 1:07 PM  

Post a Comment