On October 17th, 2005, the NBA league office issued a press release signed by the late great commissioner David Stern implementing a dress code. That made the NBA the first professional sports league that had to apply a dress code. Many saw this as a move pointed against Allen Iverson, who wore baggy clothes and flashy jewelry. AI looked like he just came from shooting a hip-hop video, and David Stern didn’t like it.
The dress code of 2015
The dress code mandated that players have to wear “business casual” when they are engaged in league business. Business casual was defined as:
Long or short-sleeved dress shirt (collared or turtleneck), and/or a sweater. Dress slacks, khaki pants, or dress jeans. Appropriate shoes and socks, including dress shoes, dress boots, or other presentable shoes, but not including sneakers, sandals, flip-flops, or work boots.
The league continued to define acceptable clothing for players in attendance but not in uniform, players leaving the arena, or for special events. In the end, the dress code specifically excluded the following items:
Sleeveless shirts, shorts, t-shirts, jerseys, or sports apparel (unless appropriate for the event (e.g., a basketball clinic), team-identified, and approved by the team). The headgear of any kind while a player is sitting on the bench or in the stands at a game. During media interviews or a team or league event or appearance (unless appropriate for the event or appearance, team-identified, and approved by the team). Chains, pendants, or medallions worn over the player’s clothes. Sunglasses while indoors. Headphones (other than on the team bus or plane, or in the team locker room).
It’s as if they had a photo of AI in front of them and just named everything they saw him wearing. At the time, hip-hop culture was rising, and there was a discourse on the political spectrum (white suburban America) about the horrible impact the subculture had on their children. You don’t spend a lot of money on Brad’s education so that he would curse and challenge authority. You do it so he can get a degree and participate in white-collar crime on Wall Street. The NBA worked very hard to shed its image in the 70s and 80s when players would regularly fight on the court. There was fear that promoting hip-hop culture would bring back the image that (white) customers wouldn’t like, so AI had to wear a suit. The thing is, a lot of players spoke up against this policy (via Ballislife).
One thing to me that was kind of racist was you couldn’t wear chains outside your clothing. I don’t understand what that has to do with being business approachable. You wear a suit, and you still could be a crook. You see what happened with Enron and Martha Stewart. Just because you dress a certain way doesn’t mean you’re that way. Hey, a guy could come in with baggy jeans, a ‘durag and have a Ph.D. and a person who comes in with a suit could be a three-time felon.
They don’t want your chains to be out, all gaudy and shiny. But that’s the point of them, I love wearing my jewelry. But I love my job. I love playing basketball more than I love getting fined and getting suspended.
I think it’s a load of crap. I understand what they’re trying to do with hats and ‘durags and jerseys and stuff. That’s fine. But I don’t understand why they would take it to this level. I think it’s basically retarded. I don’t like the direction they’re going, but who am I?
The dress code of 2020
Things have changed since then. NBA players are kings of social media, and as we all know, social media is founded on people’s vanity. Enter the scene, fashion! A lot of players are wearing ridiculous outfits and have clothing lines nowadays. I submit exhibit A:
The prosecution rests. As it turns out, the man that caused the dress code to get implemented thinks the NBA needs to redefine it and enforce it! Iverson expressed his thoughts at ComplexCon (via 8eye media)
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I couldn’t agree more with AI. On a recent podcast, Brian Windhorst pointed out that the players only dress like this for nationally televised games. So I guess their love of fashion accidentally coincides with a lot of cameras around them. If only they went back to baggy clothes and the occasional chain.