The mid-2000s saw the NBA reeling in the aftermath of the Malice at the Palace. Feeling alienated by the rise of expressions of hip-hop culture among NBA players, corporate sponsors were threatening to leave the league in droves. In order to bridge the growing gap between the league and its financial base, David Stern and the NBA’s white leadership commenced an all-out assault on the symbols of blackness sported by the hip-hop generation, with a dress code as its chief weapon.
And as such, 12 years ago in October, Stern and the NBA implemented a dress code, one that remains in effect to this day.
The new rules did not simply call for players to dress in “business casual.” The rules specifically outlawed certain clothing items strongly identified with hip-hop: sleeveless shirts, shorts, jerseys, T-shirts, sports apparel, chains, pendants, medallions, sunglasses and headphones were included among the banned items. “Headgear of any kind” was targeted in particular, unless said headgear was pre-approved by the team and included some sort of team identifier.
NBA executives tried to pass it off as not a racist measure but one to foster professionalism. David Stern said, “The notion is that if you’re a professional, with it are certain protocols. One of them is the way you dress when you’re on business.”