With the NBA season still a few weeks away, the basketball community’s focus is currently on what would otherwise be considered an extraneous issue: the league’s proposed dress code. For those of you unfamiliar with the situation, the added clause to the Collective Bargaining Agreement would require players to wear a sport coat and slacks for any and all official team functions, including flights and public appearances.
“I really do have a problem with it.”
What do the players think? If the media’s coverage thus far is anything to go by, the response has generally been negative. Among the most vocal opponents to the changes are Marcus Camby and Allen Iverson, who summed up his stance with the quote above. The Cambyman went a little goofy in suggesting that the league should give the players a stipend to purchase the necessary clothes, but raised a legitimate issue in pointing out that it would be highly impractical to attend coaching clinics while dressing within the rules. Also opposed are Kenyon Martin, Mark Pope (both are said to have called the NBA Players’ Association with their feelings) and Deshawn Stevenson, whose criticism centred on having to dress in such clothing for late-night flights following the front end of back-to-backs.
Some, however, seem to have reacted to the news somewhat more positively. Steve Francis, for one, went on record as saying “We’re paid well enough to wear some nice clothes”, and Eduardo Najera, Jerry Sloan and others have been quoted similarly. Others have taken a third way, claiming that they are not opposed to the rule per se, but rather certain features of it, with the requirement of a sport coat being cited as the offensive requirement by many.
What does David Stern think? Here’s what he said: “The dress code is, to me, a continuation of things…It’s a small thing that contributes to a sense of professionalism. It’s what the job entails.”
Here’s what he meant: “After years of solid work improving the NBA’s image, Ron Artest ran into the stands and took me right back to square one. Even if I can’t force every one of these millionaires act properly, I can ensure that they at least look respectable.”
Dave knows as well as anyone that, although the real fans are in it for the game, the big money comes from families, the consumers most likely to be affected by the marketing and common perception of the league. While the clean-up job following the Malice at the Palace may have taken the Pistons’ custodial staff a few days, D-Stern’s work continues as he gently coaxes the audience holding the disposable income back to the arenas. The response will obviously be anything but spontaneous, but mothers and fathers who may have otherwise believed the stereotypes which portrayed NBA players as thugs will, when faced with these well-dressed young men, gradually change their perceptions, whether knowingly or not. At least, that’s the idea.
What do I think? I’m mixed on this one. As a fan, it simply makes no difference to me, but that may be because I have enough of a knowledge of the way the league works to realise how insignificant this sort of change is. Those new to the game, however, may be swayed by these subtle marketing shifts, although most would likely pay them no heed. In short, they’re not fooling me with this one, although I’m not part of the demographic they’re targeting anyway.
As a cynic, I can only consider this another of Dave’s attempts to make the NBA appeal to the lowest common denominator. The more we see the league robbed of its idiosyncrasies, the less we (those who truly love it) hear of the quirky incidents that add spice to a product which is already wildly entertaining. Try to list the reasons you enjoy NBA basketball, and I doubt many of them will make reference to dress guidelines, press conference protocol or many of the thousands of other rules designed to draw the masses at the expense of the faithful. While I may appear a little dramatic for suggesting that this will have a detrimental impact upon the game as a whole, it should be noted that it is not this proposed rule, but rather the precedent it sets that should be seen as the threat. If they start to dictate what the players can and cannot wear when they’re not even in the public eye, what comes next? I hate to think.
Let us know your thoughts on this matter by commenting in the box below or by emailing me directly at [email protected]. Until the next edition of The Blog, take it easy.