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Volume 26 No. 112
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NBA’s New Dress Code Takes Center Stage During Preseason

Stern Says Dress Code Part
Of Plan To Improve Image
Following the announcement of the NBA’s business casual dress code this week, Commissioner David Stern said of players objecting to the policy, “If they really want to make a problem, they’re going to have to make a decision about how they want to spend their adult life in terms of playing in the NBA or not.” Stern said that the league’s 20 corporate sponsors “had zero involvement in the decision” to enforce a dress code. Stern made his remarks at the Street & Smith’s Sports Group’s Sports & Social Responsibility Executive Forum (USA TODAY, 10/19). Stern said during CBA talks, “we decided that the reputation of our players was not as good as our players are, and we could do small things to improve that.” Stern said those steps included players signing autographs, how they present themselves during the national anthem, being available for season-ticket holder events, and “finally, discussion turned to minimum dress code” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/19).

UNION RESPONSE: ESPN’s Ric Bucher said when the dress code was presented to the NBPA during CBA negotiations, “there wasn’t any push back from them” and “they agreed with it. There’s been a little rumbling from the (NBPA). I think that’s because some of their constituents have raised issues, but I am told that they are not going to fight this deal” (ESPNews, 10/18). Knicks F and NBPA President Antonio Davis: “When it all settles, and you start to realize why [we have a dress code], and guys will come in and they’ll feel good about how they’re dressed and things like that, hopefully they’ll start to embrace it” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/19). ESPN's Skip Bayless said the players who are upset “should aim this misguided whining of theirs at (NBPA Exec Dir) Billy Hunter. ... He agreed to this” (“Cold Pizza,” 10/19).

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU WEAR: 76ers G Allen Iverson, in a front page piece in today’s L.A. TIMES, said of the dress code, “I think it’s wrong. You shouldn’t judge a person from what they wear.” Northeastern Univ. Center for the Study of Sport in Society Dir Peter Roby added, “We have to be careful about making assumptions about folks simply on the way they look. That’s a dangerous thing to do because it’s how we start to create stereotypes.” Artemisia Apostolopoulou, assistant professor of sports management at Bowling Green State Univ., believes that the NBA’s “image problems go beyond what players choose to wear.” Apostolopoulou: “You can be dressed in suits and still go and fight in the stands. ... That in itself is not a big change, unless it’s part of a more integrated strategy to reshape the image” (Crowe & Herman, L.A. TIMES, 10/19).

SOME PLAYERS IN FAVOR: Pacers F and player rep Austin Croshere said the dress code is “a good thing. I think there should be some creative expression on the part of the players to dress in a manner that fits them, but at the same time to portray the professionalism the league wants” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 10/19). Trail Blazers G Juan Dixon: “I have no problem with it. We’re professionals. These organizations are paying players millions of dollars, so we should look professional” (PORTLAND TRIBUNE, 10/18). Hornets F and NBPA VP P.J. Brown called the dress code “fair” and “not too bad” (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 10/19). Heat C Alonzo Mourning: “You’ve got a corporation that’s asking you to present yourself in a certain way. You’ve got to abide by it” (PALM BEACH POST, 10/19). Cavaliers F LeBron James added, “It’s a job and we should look like we’re going to work” (AP, 10/19).

Stephen Jackson Believes Parts Of
Dress Code Target African-Americans
OTHERS AGAINST IT: Pacers G Stephen Jackson said of the dress code clause prohibiting players wearing chains, pendants or medallions over their clothes, “I definitely feel that’s a racial statement. Almost 100[%] of the guys in the league who are young and black wear big chains” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 10/19). Bucks G T.J. Ford: “The only thing I have a problem with is the jewelry. I have a lot of jewelry to wear, and now you really can’t wear your chains to the gym” (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 10/19). Trail Blazers F Zach Randolph said of the dress code in general, “It’s stupid. [You] should be able to wear what you want to wear” (PORTLAND TRIBUNE, 10/18). Spurs F Tim Duncan: “I think it’s a load of (garbage). I’ll probably stay in the locker room (if I don’t play). I understand what they’re trying to do with the do-rags and the hats, but I don’t understand why they’re taking it to this extreme” (Baltimore SUN, 10/19). ESPN.com’s Marc Stein noted Duncan, who did not play in Tuesday night’s exhibition game against the Pacers, “sat on the bench wearing an untucked shirt and baggy jeans” (ESPN.com, 10/18).

TEAM THOUGHTS: Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban believes that the dress code will “create more media coverage than the players or games themselves.” He called the policy a “waste of time to pacify some owners or team management who aren’t able or willing to talk to their players.” But Cuban said the new NBA Cares initiative is “the best thing I have seen out of the NBA from a league image and presentation since I have been an owner. ... Maybe if we had done this first, the league wouldn’t feel the need to have a dress code” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/19). ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard: "If the players have to wear business casual for a game, how can you justify Mark Cuban running around Dallas Mavericks games with a T-shirt, 501 jeans and sneakers? If there's a rule for players, it should be a rule for all NBA employees and owners" (“Cold Pizza,” ESPN2, 10/19). Celtics coach Doc Rivers: “When we really talk about our image it’s going to be how we act more than how we dress” (BOSTON HERALD, 10/19). But Lakers coach Phil Jackson is in favor of the dress code, saying, “Players have been dressing in prison garb the last five or six years. All the stuff that goes on, it’s like gangster, thuggery stuff. It’s time” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/19).

Phil Jackson Feels Dress
Code Is Long Overdue
POLICIES ALREADY IN PLACE: Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said the team’s dress code “is stricter, anyway. The only thing that would affect us is sometimes we’ve had guys on the bench not in sports coats” (Ft. Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL, 10/19). But Van Gundy added, “I thought it was funny they can’t wear any of the jewelry. ... That’s stricter than the dress code in a lot of office buildings” (WASHINGTON POST, 10/19). In Atlanta, Sekou Smith reports Hawks GM Billy Knight will keep the team’s current policy under which players “must wear a sport coat and slacks on flights, on the bench when not in uniform, and at all team-related functions” (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 10/19). In N.Y., John Eligon notes the Knicks already require players to wear suits to and from all games (N.Y. TIMES, 10/19).

IMAGE IS EVERYTHING: ESPN’s Bucher said the dress code “is one more step in the direction of making the players look a little bit more like the people who actually buy the tickets. ... It becomes difficult to maintain an audience when your audience feels that it in no way can identify with the people that they are watching” (ESPNews, 10/18). ESPN’s John Saunders: “It is being driven by the corporate public because that is what supports the NBA financially” (“On The Money,” CNBC, 10/18). But in Philadelphia, Rich Hofmann asks, “Do they really think we will buy more tickets or watch more games on TV because Allen Iverson wears a sport coat on the bench?” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 10/19).

IF IT AIN’T BROKE: In Dallas, Kevin Blackistone writes Stern is “hellbent on making over an image that he perceives as deleterious to his league, a league that set attendance records last season and is growing in popularity overseas by leaps and bounds” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/19). In L.A., Mark Heisler writes, “Once admired and copied for their marketing acumen, NBA officials have looked ever more anxiously for ways to turn the tide of perception” (L.A. TIMES, 10/19).

IS IT HYPOCRITICAL? Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp said Stern “is being a hypocrite here. He is making millions off of the hip-hop culture and their increasing advertising muscle, yet he frowns upon his players wearing the clothes that are familiar in that culture” (ESPNews, 10/18). In Milwaukee, Michael Hunt writes under the header, “Hypocrisy Aside, Dress Code Seems Fair.” Hunt: “Stern built his empire by marketing the individual star, such as Allen Iverson and his hip-hop sense of style, at the expense of the team. And Stern could live with that until the notorious [Pacers-Pistons] brawl last season placed an unjust stereotype on the league.” But Hunt adds “there is no reason why professional athletes ... should not be held to the same standards” as many Americans who have to adhere to a dress code (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 10/19). Ecko Unlimited Creative Dir Emil Wilbekin: “It’s almost like the NBA doesn’t want the players to be who they are” (Baltimore SUN, 10/19). IN Toronto, Dave Feschuk writes the dress code is “a needless edict that says a lot more about Stern’s opinion of African-American players than we wanted to know” (TORONTO STAR, 10/19).

GOT YOUR BACK: Offshore gambling Web site Bodog.com has offered to pay any fines that any NBA player receives for violating the dress code this season. If Iverson pays his own fines, Bodog.com Founder and CEO Calvin Ayre will match the amounts in the form of donations to Iverson’s Crossover Foundation (Bodog.com).