By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) “I don’t even know really.”
That was how a puzzled Joakim Noah responded after the Chicago Bulls’ 111-101 loss to the Indiana Pacers Monday night. But he wasn’t referring to what the Pacers did to outlast the Bulls or if he could recommend anything fun to do in Indianapolis.
No, he was referring to what was wrong with his choice of attire while sitting on the Bulls bench inactive for the game with plantar fasciitis. See, in the middle of the game one of Der Kommissar David Stern’s brownshirts told Noah that his clothes were unacceptable for public appearance. The Bulls center was made to change lest he meet the rack or iron maiden.
Per the language of the NBA Player Dress Code, “Players are required to wear Business Casual attire whenever they are engaged in team or league business.
‘Business Casual’ attire means
- A long or short-sleeved dress shirt (collared or turtleneck), and/or a sweater.”
And… “Players who are in attendance at games but not in uniform are required to wear the following additional items when seated on the bench or in the stands during the game:
- Sport Coat”
Noah was donning a cardigan—which I would think satisfies the sweater requirement in lieu of a dress shirt as the dress code rules state—along with a blazer. I fail to see the conflict there. But for some reason his particular sweater wasn’t up to snuff for the league fashionistas. Why? I don’t even know really.
Is it because a sweater like that lends itself to the reputation Noah has as a guy who smokes a ton of weed? I don’t even know really. Maybe it’s because that sweater does seem like exactly one that a stoner with money would wear (yes, I’m stereotyping, but I also grew up on the far Southwest Side where there are plenty of potheads with money).
Or is that sweater just too casual? Even though the rules on the league’s website do not specify what sweaters are acceptable and what ones are not. Did Noah appear too comfortable for the league’s taste? I don’t even know really.
Whatever the answer to any of those questions may be, one thing is apparent—the league’s dress code is complete bull. It attempts to force square pegs in round holes, making grown men not what they are in most instances, which is individuals with an individual brand to sell. Can’t have that in Stern’s Democratic People’s Republic of Basketball. Individuality breeds dissidence. Dress codes stymie that and aim to foster an environment of automatons, which is what Stern and his lackeys want but can never fully achieve (but sure as hell won’t stop trying to get). What dictators like Stern don’t understand is that you can throw down as much cement as you please—pesky weeds always find a way to poke through.
Look at last season’s playoffs. The postgame phenomena of Russell Westbrook’s outfits and Dwyane Wade’s glasses become their own story. What about Kevin Durant having a backpack accompany him to press conferences? Do those fall under Stern’s idea of “professionalism?” But that stuff wasn’t illegal. And a much more conservative choice by Noah was. But Noah is a free spirit, which apparently is only okay if you’re one of the league’s established “faces,” like a Westbrook or Durant.
Which suggests a bigger problem with the NBA’s dress code—there seems to be serious subjectivity as far as policing it. For example, as Kelly Dwyer points out, when not active and on the bench “Jeans are passable only if the NBA decides that, weirdly, players are sporting high-end jeans.” What’s “high-end?” Is it by brand name? Color? Price tag? I don’t even know really.
Again, per the language on the league’s website, Noah was seemingly in no violation Monday night. He had the sport coat plus the “and/or a sweater,” yet that stuck in somebody’s craw to the point where midgame he had to exit the bench to change clothes. Maybe he wasn’t being festive enough? He certainly wasn’t being controversial. I can guarantee that there would have been zero talk of Noah’s clothes—really, what is even remotely bothersome about what he was originally wearing?—had the Fashion Gestapo not made a visible stink about it.
And don’t think the league wasn’t fully aware of what it was doing. This was conspicuous on purpose so that it would be news to subsequently serve as a Bradburian/McCarthyistic warning to future clothing criminalia. Test our boundaries and we’ll treat you like children, players. That’s the David Stern way—march to my beat—even when I feel like changing it up—or I’ll crush you with the drum.
What’s it say about an executive that treats employees in such a fascist, inconsistent manner? Actually, I think I know really.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.