The fashion police should have come for Joakim Noah long ago. The unshaven, wild-haired center for the Chicago Bulls has never been the cleanest-cut person in the world, and it sometimes seems like his offensive skills stem largely from his defender’s unwillingness to touch him.
Noah finally pushed a bit too far on Monday. He was escorted off the bench in the second quarter of the Bulls’ loss to Indiana, and later told reporters that he was asked to change clothes to conform to the NBA’s dress code. Noah’s hooded sweater (or “shawl,” as one observer referred to it) apparently ran afoul of the rules, which stipulate that a player must wear “business casual” attire such as a dress shirt, sport coat, slacks, khakis, dress jeans or… a sweater.
Anyway, the absurd situation of a grown man having to be escorted away to change clothes resurrected the eight-year-old argument about the dress code being the worst thing in the history of mankind. Implemented prior to the 2005-06 season as a response to the baggy jeans, oversized T-shirts and massive jewelry that were popular at the time, the dress code drew fire immediately. Critics argued that the code was an intolerant strike against “hip-hop” culture and an overreach of the league’s authority — which it absolutely, positively was.
Still, anybody with a significant other knows the axiom: “Pick your battles.” We are a little more than a year removed from a lockout that featured players and owners bitterly arguing over basketball-related income, punitive luxury tax penalties and individual player salary restrictions. Dressing like millions of adults in countless other professions already do really is not worth fighting over. Wherever you work, chances are there is a dress code of some kind, be it a shirt and tie or 37 pieces of flair. It’s part of being a grown-up.
In the case of professional athletes, it’s also a small price to pay for the fame and fortune that come along with the job. Sure, it is annoying to get surrounded by reporters tossing the same mundane questions at you every day after work, but those five minutes are a more than reasonable trade-off in a world where the minimum veteran’s salary is about $1.2 million. Donning a collared shirt and a blazer is not too much to ask.
Just to be clear, pretty much everyone should agree that Noah should have been forced to change. The NBA just picked the wrong article of clothing. Noah was rocking the fashion abomination known as male “skinny jeans” and even gave a thumbs-up in response to some ribbing he received from the crowd over his pants. Alas, Noah only changed what he was wearing above the waist, scoring a victory for hipsters everywhere.