Dress Code Is Real World Reality That Some Players Don’t Want To Embrace

By Gregory Moore
Updated: October 24, 2005

SAN ANTONIO — “If a well-dressed white kid and a black kid wearing a do-rag and throwback jersey came to me in a job interview, I’d hire the white kid. That’s the reality” – Charles Barkley Barkley’s words have never been any truer than what he said last week on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. You can tack that phrase right up there with his now famous (or is it infamous) line of, “I am not a role model”.

But when you try to mention that to San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, Indiana’s Stephen Jackson or Denver’s Marcus Camby, they scoff, snort and rail that either the NBA dress code policy that will be implemented is racist, a load of crap or pointless.

Yet what has become the purveyance in the Black community is the lack of sound judgment by today’s so-called young black leaders. Yes Duncan and the couple of hundred or so of the Black athletes that comprise of nearly three fourths of the NBA’s players are leaders. Michael Vick and the few hundred in the NFL player’s union who are African American are leaders.

As a matter of fact any African American who is a professional athlete and has any type of name recognition is a leader to the young Black America of today whether they like it or not. They are the role models that they don’t want to be but that goes along with the territory.

What also comes along with being a professional athlete these days is the fact that reality is very much a part of your lifestyle now and that what was once a tower of steel where reality couldn’t permeate, it has now become a tower of Sponge Bob’s liking and the real world that sports fans live by has now seeped into the sports world.

This dress code is just one aspect of such an absorption that the sports world must now deal with on a real world basis.

But why is this a big issue in the Black community now? Why wasn’t it a big deal when Magic, Hakeem, Patrick, Larry and Michael were playing? Why hasn’t David Robinson spoken up against this dress policy?

As a matter of fact, how come we have only heard from a select few of the black cadre of NBA players on this subject? Maybe that’s because the great majority of former and current players understands exactly where David Stern was coming from and they don’t have a problem.

What does a majority of these players understand so well? That the NBA is a $3 billion business and that while they may be ‘employees’ of franchise owners, the great majority of the players understand that they are also business partners.

This is a part of the sports business acumen that many of our young Black kids do not get in school or on the streets. Too many of our youth, and sadly so many more of our older adults, they see this dress code as a trampling of their individual rights to dress.

Yet I want to take Sir Charles’ words and use them as an example to show just how ‘real’ the real world is on the perception of success. Let’s say that I am going to Chase Bank for a business loan and I have moderate means of financial capital. I have some mutual funds and let’s say I may have $30,000 in liquid assets.

Let’s say that Allen Iverson is going into that same bank for a business loan and we know what kind of finances he might be capable of. For the sake of argument let’s say the business loan is for an entertainment venture (night club, restaurant). Allen decides that he is going to go to the meeting in his ‘casual’ attire that he normally wears.

I decide that I am going to look my best in a Botany 500 suit of black pinstripe, conservative white shirt, two print tie that has red and black, matching handkerchief and a moderate jewelry assessment of a watch, class ring and gold cufflinks. Iverson goes in to see the bank vice president and he is gone within thirty minutes.

I walk into that same vice president’s office and after I have met with him, and the bank’s president, I have a second meeting to go over not only my loan and how I will be able to pay that money back once I sign the papers, but they want me to be a part of the revitalization of a new area and they put me in touch with the restaurant association’s president and I am invited to a chamber function to help get my business off the ground.

Allen gets his loan but the bank does not extend ‘outside’ services to help him get started or to help him succeed.

What’s the difference between Iverson and myself in that scenario? We both get our loans if you notice in the example; I get the royal treatment to be a success.

Iverson may have more money but because I went into the bank dressed ‘successfully’, the perception from the lending institution was that while I may be a high risk, the fact that I am after a dream gave them the impetus to not only help me secure financing but to also become a part of the business culture.

When you look a the example given, Iverson may not succeed but in the real world, you can almost bet your mortgage that if Allen Iverson had to borrow money, he would be in business attire; not the ‘prison garb’ he likes to wear. And that is the very reason why David Stern and the league have implemented this dress code.

When you look at it from the business model that the NBA is a part of, having your players come dressed in the fashion of success not only portrays a successful product, what it also does is to reach out to the very people that Charles was talking about; our youth.

The ‘prison’ garb that I have seen so many of our youth wear has upset many others and me because we know and understand where such fashions have come from. I know and understand why slaves had earrings and tattoos and it wasn’t for being a fashion plate for ‘massah’ either.

Yet I also know why Bob Johnson and Oprah Winfrey are successful. I understand more, now than ever, why my own parents have continually stressed to dress to impress when I go out into the public on a lot of events.

The success that Johnson, Winfrey, Jordan, my parents and so many other African Americans in business came from the fact that they understood that a ‘dress code’ was something that abides in the real world.

The real world may not sit well many professional athletes but the ramifications of the fans they supposedly are trying to connect with are quite the opposite. In today’s world, you will not get anywhere looking thuggish in your dress.

There is a decorum on business attire that everyone is assumed of knowing and when your employer lays down an edict to conform to such a standard, employees really have only two choices: either you comply or you quit.

Well, we all know that in the real world professional athletes have very limited opportunities to make the paychecks they are accustomed to. To truly make this issue a non-issue with our young Black men and women, what these athletes need to do is face the reality of the situation and simply ‘conform’ to what everyone else is doing.