Thursday, October 20, 2005

Dress for Success
By Zach

Editor's Note: Well, John enjoyed writing a post so much, he decided to try it again.

NBA commissioner David Stern is 100% right on in imposing a dress code for the NBA. This isn’t about race. It’s about good business. NBA TV ratings have suffered along with interest from older, more affluent Americans. This is much less about race than it is about a generational gap. Kids and young men of all races are either into hip hop, or in the very least understand the culture and appearances that come along with it. Older Americans do not. This is both white and black. They see the NBA players with their chains, tattoos, oversized jeans, flat brimmed hats and throwback jerseys and see thugs, punks, immature adolescents. Sometimes they are. Most times they aren’t.

David Stern, in order to boost ratings, boost sponsors, and in the end boost league revenue needs to appeal to this crowd that has not only been turned off by some player’s appearances, but also the style of play. No more teamwork, fundamentals or mid-range jump shots. Now the game is all flash, three pointers, slam dunks and trying to embarrass your opponent. All this combines to turn off this big spending portion of the NBA demographic.

And it should be noted that most players whose dress violates the new code are not as bad as their perception. In fact the huge majority of players are real solid individuals on and off the court. Tim Duncan is a prime example. Yet, it’s not as if some players with a bad rep are against it. Ricky Davis, whose normal dress would violate the code, has no problem with the rule. "I mean, it's cool. It's not real harsh. It just changes the image a little. Guys just got to grow up I guess. They're just trying to exclude some things. It's simple to me. Guys need to go out and buy some clothes and start something new.'' And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Ricky Davis is 100% right.

Ok good, I haven’t been struck down from above.

Despite what Jason Richardson and Stephen Jackson may think this is not a racist policy. It is a “grown-up” policy. And here’s the problem, a lot of these guys in the NBA haven’t grown up. They haven’t had to. They go from being a child prodigy in high school, catered to by all their groupies and enablers to a multi-million dollar contract in the NBA, or a year or two in College where they are made into prima-donnas by administrators and boosters who want winning basketball programs. They never have a chance to grow up, and remain children in adult bodies who make a lot of money.

Just look at some of the reactions, and think of how kids in high school bitch and moan when their parents want them to do something or wear something they don’t want to. We’ve all been there. What these guys have been saying should be pretty familiar to all of us. This brings us back to the new NBA age limit, which is essential to this league moving back to the product in the Nineties when Jordan and the Bulls were the main attraction. Jordan understood, along with the other stars of the day that while they were multi-million dollar superstars, they were also symbols of the league, and grown-ups. When grown-ups go to work, they wear nice clothes. They don’t wear caps to work. Jobs have dress codes. Some of these NBA players are so lost and out of touch with reality they just don’t get it. Marcus Camby suggested that players should get stipends to buy suits. Do businessmen working in Manhattan for 30-40k a year get a stipend for suits? Don’t think so. Pipe down Marcus, and I want you to meet someone. It’s called real life. You might want to learn what it’s about, get out of your little land of make believe and figure out what people with real jobs have to wear to work.

Finally… there are so many more reasons this policy is not racist. I'll list the reasons. In the Nineties the league was just as predominantly black as it is now. Look at Jordan, Larry Johnson, Mourning, Oakley, Barkley and everyone else in that era. They wore suits, they were black. What’s the problem with today’s generation doing the same thing? Nothing. Those players made looking good in a suit a fine art, often competing with their teammates over who dressed best. Are white players subject to the same requirements as black players? Yes. The league is predominantly black, so any league rule instituted will affect black players more than white players. Are they targeted? YES. Why? They make up 90% of the league. When you make rules, you target the majority of the league. A guy like Stephen Jackson thinks it’s racist because he’s immature and doesn’t think things through. He doesn’t like a new rule, and to try to get it changed he does what is convenient and easy, he tries to play the race card. We’ve seen his immature behavior before. Remember who was charging into the stands swinging like a wild man in the brawl in Detroit last year.

And keep this in mind. These guys don’t ever have to wear suits. On the bench you need a sports coat over a turtleneck or collared shirt. While traveling all they need are slacks OR jeans, a collar shirt, and shoes. People play golf, a sport, in those clothes and they’re not uncomfortable to the point where that’s a legit reason to be against the code. And remember, many teams like the Knicks already have a stricter dress code. They are required to wear jackets and ties at all times on the road. Who instituted those rules you ask? Another missive from overbearing idiot owner Jim Dolan? Nope, not this time. Try Isaih Thomas, the Knicks general manager. By the way, he’s black. Is he a racist too? I guess Stephen Jackson thinks so. I wonder how that talk between the two would go. I’d pay to see it.

Older, more affluent America can root for and relate to great black athletes. See Michael Jordan, Barry Sanders, and Kirby Puckett. They can’t, however, relate to this new generation of NBA stars. David Stern is trying to help solve that problem. If he does it helps the league. The players, even the ones who don’t like the rules, are helped by it with more sponsorships and money. It’s a win-win for everyone. Now all they have to do is go up to their rooms, take a time out, and put on their shiny new suits!

John Schmeelk is a former WNYU Sports Director and Cheap Seats host, as well as a current WFAN producer. He also stars as the wide receiver for the Kevin Dyson Experience NYU Intramural Football team and somehow finds time to hang out with most of the Sportszilla crew on a fairly regular basis. If you liked what he wrote, leave a comment or e-mail us at sportszilla at gmail dot com and we'll try to convince him to write more.

Also, if you're interested in writing a guest column, send us a sample column. It should be no less than 250 words, no more than about 750 (though if it's good, we'll make an exception).


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