What to make of the National Basketball Association’s new player dress code?
For openers, it’s an employer-employee issue, with ample precedent in the marketplace. In the NBA’s case, the league is requiring its player-employees to wear “business casual” attire when involved in team or league business. It’s called image.
Disney has one; so does IBM. Alas, so does the NBA, and that’s the problem.
The NBA is a billion-dollar enterprise, and it doesn’t want to screw it up. Having a black, hip-hop product in a largely white, mainstream marketplace can be dicey. How the NBA wishes it still had Michael and Magic, wondrous, race-transcending talents who also styled in three-piece suits. The best of both worlds – court and corporate appeal.
Now they’re saddled with the current generation who are undeterred about having less to swagger about. The product, arguably, has diminished, while the image is the antithesis of Jordan and Johnson. Too many player ensembles consist of baggy sweatpants, throw-back jerseys, doo-rags, indoor sun glasses, baseball lids on sideways and gold chains and medallions that would shame Mr. T.
Whatever code language the NBA chooses, this is what it’s really saying: “We don’t look at this as a black fashion statement by a given generation that is misunderstood by a bunch of intolerant, clueless, old white guys. To too many of our sponsors, corporate-suite owners and paying customers, the hip-hop look is a thug look, conjuring up misogynistic attitudes and in-your-face boorishness. You don’t have to watch BET Videos to come to that conclusion. They don’t like the look, and they won’t underwrite the league in perpetuity. This is a business, as every millionaire player well knows.”
And, by the way, the NBA’s right to impose its new code in business-related contexts is part of the collective bargaining agreement with the players.