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I welcome the NBA's new dress code. Living in Orlando, I attend many Magic games and see the injured players on the bench wearing sport jackets and dress pants. I often hear comments in the stands about what a professional-looking team it is, on and off the court.
The NBA's decision to impose a dress code on its players will have this effect across the league. The image of NBA players is still reeling from the Pacers-Pistons brawl last season. This, compounded by other instances involving a handful of players who crossed social and legal lines, has tarnished more than just a handful because of the brush used by the public to paint all players in the same box.
Sport has always been treated differently and less seriously than other areas of our society. The sports department at newspapers is often called the "toy department." Sports broadcasters are frequently looked at as being beneath news broadcasters. It is why, as the chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program at the University of Central Florida, we require our students to dress in business-casual attire every day for class.
You can look across our campus and see so many different kinds of attire worn by students. Because of the warm weather in Florida, we see lots of shorts and sandals. Regular students dress in business clothing only when they have to make presentations. When professors see students in the DeVos Management Program dressed up, they know that this is a special group. Our visitors always comment about how professional and distinctive this group is. I have no doubt that this will now apply to NBA players.
Marcus Camby has said there should be a clothing allowance for players if the NBA is going to impose a dress code. I find this to be silly in light of Camby's multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract. When I hear players say that a dress code is racist and anti-hip-hop, I take it with more than a grain of salt. For more than 15 years the NBA has had sports' best record in terms of hiring practices in front offices, from team presidents to general managers to head coaches to senior administrators and regular professionals.
The NBA is way ahead of the curve on the issue of race, and to me the dress code has no racial implications whatsoever. Coincidentally, the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, which I direct, released the Racial and Gender Report Card last week, and the NBA was the only men's professional sports league to receive an "A" for racial-hiring practices. This decision was not about race or culture. It was about professionalism in the workplace. It just so happens that the NBA's workplaces are basketball arenas.