Archive for Friday, October 28, 2005

Commentary: Stern’s power trip very unfashionable

October 28, 2005

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— The only thing more laughable about David Stern's dress code than the edict itself is that there will be sports writers chiming in agreement with pro basketball's emperor, guys whose idea of high couture is sporting a golf shirt with the logo of the last major they covered embroidered (if they really spent big bucks) on the chest. That's kind of like having the worthiness of a Nobel Prize critiqued by Jessica Simpson.

But I digress.

Who even knew that the clothes NBA players donned coming to the gym, leaving the gym or sitting on the bench while injured or otherwise inactive were even a problem? Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. What the league just announced is making the molehill.

As one prominent NBA player probably would say: "We're sitting here, and I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we're talking about the latest trunk show at Barneys. I mean listen, we're sitting here talking about sartorial splendor, not a game ... not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it's my last, but we're talking about Gucci or Pucci. How silly is that?"

This is one quip Mark Twain got wrong. Clothes don't make the man.

Some pretty reprehensible folks over the years have dressed like they belong in boardrooms. Come to think of it, some of them have been in boardrooms. And now they're in jail rooms.

But the NBA's commissioner, Stern, who has become so inebriated with his own power that he's turned into the sports world's Great Dictator, is hellbent on making over an image that he perceives as deleterious to his league, a league that set attendance records last season and is growing in popularity overseas by leaps and bounds.

Indeed, Stern unilaterally kicked Ron Artest out of the league last year after that ugly incident in Detroit. He tried to hire Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd until many of his executives and team owners hooted him down privately. He played to the players' union fears and legislated most teenagers, almost all of whom historically have been black, out of the league with an age limit.

And now he's decided, pretty much on his own (he consulted the union he's emasculated), that the urban black fashion aesthetic has no place in the game.

No baggy jeans. No throwback jerseys. No chains, pendants or medallions dangling over shirts.

Basketball is an urban game, not necessarily an urbane one. It's always been given to the latest fashions of young men, just like other pro sports, whether it was outrageously patterned garb of the '70s or what some twentysomethings are kicking today.

This isn't about teaching kids how to look when showing up for a job interview. They should learn in school when to put on appropriate airs.

Want a job on an NBA court? Wear sweats, shorts and sneakers. And bring game.

I can understand if Stern wants to, as he's already done, make on-the-court wear more uniform, like putting a limit on how long hemlines on shorts can fall. We tune into or turn out for NBA games to watch the players on the court. I don't know of anyone yet who has checked out a game to see what the eternal injured reserve player is wearing on the end of the bench. Maybe Stern does.

The NBA said it won't announce Stern's penalty for its dress code violators until it sees an offender. But given the direction of things, you know what it'll probably be: Dockers for a month!

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