THE NBA IS RACIST! Have I gotten your attention? That aforementioned statement has been uttered repeatedly by hip-hop radio stations, BET, NBA players and has even been a topic of interest for minority students here at Eastern who frequent Jammin’ Java.
The reason? In a memo addressed to all 30 NBA teams, NBA commissioner David Stern enforced the following rule: effective November 1, 2005 (opening day of the NBA season), NBA players must adhere to a business casual dress code.
In a nutshell, NBA players are expected to dress as professionals coming to and from games, as well as on the team airplanes, buses and at charity events such as the Read to Achieve Programs. The business attire requires them to wear a collared shirt, turtleneck or a sweater, (no tie required), dress pants and dress shoes. Players who are on injured reserve and are sitting on the bench are expected to wear that attire along with a sports jacket.
Part of the dress code is a list of excluded items, including shorts, headphones (only permitted on the team bus, airplane and in the locker room) and sunglasses (when indoors). Fitted hats, ‘do rags,’ throwback jerseys and platinum chains are all unacceptable attire at games.
Since the widely criticized NBA dress code was implemented by NBA commissioner David Stern, it has been scrutinized for individual issues. The issue is not so much an issue of professionalism, in the eyes of some, but an issue primarily directed to a certain culture, namely hip-hop culture.
As I am sitting in my dorm room listening to my favorite rapper Jay-Z, I battle with this simple question: Why in the year 2005, does an NBA commissioner, (who has seen the likes of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Isaiah Thomas and Magic Johnson), decide to pose such a bold move?
My conclusion: the NBA is at a point now where there is no real direction.
The problem is that since the late 90s the NBA began embracing the individuality of players through marketing strategies. Ads with 76ers point guard, Allen Iverson, considered the pioneer hip-hop baller, made “hoopin’ and rappin'” a lifestyle.
Can you really blame athletes and the NBA’s consumers for receiving mixed messages and feeling as if they are wronged? Yes and no.
The NBA, just like any business, has a responsibility to its consumers to offer the best quality for their dollar. If they don’t, they will lose customers. Indeed, the NBA makes a lot of money through marketing, but are they gaining any new clientele? The key to business is expanding product to the mainstream culture. The NBA does have somewhat of an image problem as a result of the brawl last year between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons and the Kobe Bryant rape accusations.
Point blank, the mainstream fans (assumed to be Caucasian women, children and the elderly) are clutching their pocketbooks upon the sight of fairly tall and muscular African-American males, who, by the way, make up 80 percent of the NBA, and who appear to the mainstream to resemble the dress of the thugs, rappers and drug dealers they just saw committing crimes on Action News.
Indeed, the NBA markets to a hip-hop culture, but at the end of the day, it’s the bigger business (assumed to be the rich white man) who fill those luxury boxes at games and pay the bills. It is not fair!
In semi-Eastern lingo, I would consider that a ‘fashion’ injustice. I believe that you should be comfortable in the environment that you work in. As far as I’m concerned, once they step on an NBA court, the uniform that the team wears (mind you, an $180 jersey in your local hip-hop clothing store) is the attire that they have been required to wear.
Once you step off that court you should be as comfortable as possible. When I am relaxing, I want to have the biggest, roomiest size 4XL sweats I can find and a size 6XL white t-shirt, ‘bling-bling’ in my ear and on my neck and some matching Jordan sneakers! I am ridiculed for wearing certain items of clothing here at school, but at the end of the day, those opinions don’t matter. Opinions are like Escalades: these days, everyone has one!
Rather than everyone pointing the finger at the style of dress being associated with the current state of the NBA, one should look at society and media and how they interpret the average teenager and young adult. Allen Iverson, prophetic to his marginal hip-hop culture, put it best when he said, “Just because you put on a suit doesn’t make you a good person.” Do we need to bring up TYCO, Enron and the Watergate scandal?
As Christians, we are called to love all and embrace each other as God’s children, and even as Eastern students, we have been quick to judge others because of our differences. Jesus, a person who fought for what he believed in, addressed those who were marginalized: the prostitutes, the eunuchs, the lepers and those who were sincere.
In no way am I comparing Iverson to Jesus, but what I am saying is that before we quickly associate those who fit a particular description or dress a certain way to a particular group, let us embrace them for their differences and try to find similarities instead of criticizing differences.