Stern sure players will comply with dress code

Updated: October 20, 2005, 2:04 AM ET
By Darren Rovell |

NEW YORK -- NBA commissioner David Stern spoke out for the first time on the specifics of the league's new off-the-court dress code on Tuesday.

The NBA has instituted a new dress code for all its players. What is Commissioner David Stern trying to accomplish? Is he stepping on players rights to choose how they want to dress? Is Stern sending a message about the image of the league and its players? Bob Ley explores the issues on Outside the Lines (tonight, ESPN, 12:40 a.m. ET/9:40 p.m. PT).

Despite objections from players like Allen Iverson, who said he will fight to wear clothes in which he is most comfortable, Stern said he was "certain that it will be complied with."

Although Stern wouldn't say exactly how he would enforce the new regulations -- which, among other things, require injured players seated on the bench to wear a sports jacket and outlaw chains, pendants or medallions over the player's clothes while on team or league business -- he did say that the league "will use a broad range of authority" to enforce compliance.

NBA Dress Code
In a memo issued Monday, the NBA set forth a "minimum" dress code starting with the 2005-2006 season. The following highlights are excerpted from the memo:

1. General Policy: Business Casual
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.
•  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.

2. Exceptions to Business Casual
There are the following exceptions to the general policy of Business Casual attire:
a. Players In Attendance At Games But Not In Uniform
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.
•  Dress shoes or boots, and socks.

3. Excluded Items
The following is a list of items that players are not allowed to wear while on team or league business:
•  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).
• Headgear of any kind while a player is sitting on the bench or in the stands at a game, during media interviews, or during 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).

"If they are really going to have a problem, they will have to make a decision about how they want to spend their adult life in terms of playing in the NBA or not," Stern said.

Stern said he believed that much of the recent criticism over the league-imposed rules had to do with the fact that the players didn't know the specifics, which were released in a memo to the teams on Monday.

Calling the rules "quite liberal and easygoing," Stern even joked that the dress code is something that "even [Dallas Mavericks owner] Mark Cuban can comply with." But Cuban, who often wears T-shirts and jeans to games, told that there was "no chance, no way" that he would comply with the league's off-the-court dress code for its players. Sleeveless shirts are not allowed under the policy.

Iverson, whose 'do rag will now be banned, recently told the Philadelphia Daily News that "just because you put a guy in a tuxedo, it doesn't mean he's a good guy."

Stern said the clothing that is suggested is universally thought of as appropriate for someone who is in the spotlight.

"There are different uniforms for different occasions," Stern said. "There's the uniform you wear on the court, there's the uniform you wear when you are on business, there's the uniform you might wear on your casual downtime with your friends and there's the uniform you might wear when you go back home. We're just changing the definition of the uniform that you wear when you are on NBA business."

Stern kidded that certain players might receive a special stipend to buy new clothes.

"We don't know where the cutoff is -- maybe if you earn less than $8 million, you'll get a scholarship from the commissioner," Stern said.

The joke was in reference to the comment made last week by Denver Nuggets center Marcus Camby, who reportedly told The Rocky Mountain News that he didn't see players complying with the new rules unless every player received a clothing allowance. Camby is scheduled to make more than $7 million in salary this season.

Stern was less than direct as to how the league would monitor whether the players were violating the business casual attire rules, cracking a smile when telling reporters that the NBA will employ a state-of-the-art piece of nanotechnology -- a special type of dust on the player that indicates when he is not appropriate attired.

It's not clear if other sports leagues will follow the NBA's lead.

Rob Manfred, the executive vice president of labor relations and human resources for Major League Baseball, said that there is currently no need to impose a dress code policy, aside from the current rule in which players have to wear appropriate baseball garb for postgame press conferences that are free of corporate logos.

"Because of the nature of our travel and the makeup of our employees, it has never been an issue that we had to centrally regulate," Manfred said. "The clubs have been close enough as to what they require of the players."

Stern spent Tuesday giving a keynote speech at the SportsBusiness Journal's Sports and Social Responsibility Forum. During the talk, Stern unveiled a new program called NBA Cares, a name given to all of the league's charitable efforts. Stern said that over the next five years, the NBA will guarantee that the league and its players will donate at least $100 million to charity, give 1 million hours to community service and build 100 facilities where children can learn and play. He said the commitment was significantly greater than what the league and its players have done over the last half-decade.

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for, can be reached at

Darren Rovell | email Sports Business reporter