November 2, 2005, - 5:37 am

NBA v. The Coast Guard: A Tale of Two Dress Codes

By Debbie Schlussel
Recently, two prominent employers announced stricter dress codes.
But America is up in arms over the new dress code for spoiled, millionaire employees of one company. Not so for the much poorer, more affected employees of the other.
Differing reactions by self-anointed civil rights leaders to new dress codes by the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the U.S. Coast Guard are revealing.
When NBA Commissioner David Stern announced a more professional dress code for his players to and from games and while sitting on the sidelines, critics were up in arms. They were quick to defend the “injured” millionaire “victims” of this “harsh” new policy requiring collared shirts and prohibiting flashy jewelry, among other things.

tattoos.jpgdennisrodman2.jpg

Justifiably Not Coast Guard OR NBA Material, Anymore

Civil rights activists and critics cried racism. On his radio show, Rev. Barry Lynn compared it to firing employees for being Black. The majority of NBA players are Black, and the outlawed clothing comprises their preferred urban, hip-hop look. Therefore, the policy must be racist, they insisted. Race merchants weren’t about to let the facts–the policy required White NBA players to do the same and is still more lenient than a lot of America’s professional workplaces–get in their way.
At the same time, the U.S. Coast Guard announced its own new dress code. Applicants whose tattoos cover more than 25% of an exposed limb are now turned away.
Yet, there were no whines from civil libertarians and human rights activists about the new Coast Guard policy.
Why?
Maybe it has something to do with the racial and ethnic make-up of the “victims.” Instead of mostly Black, spoiled millionaires, the Coast Guard has mostly Whites from the lower-middle and under-classes.
According to Lt. Gene Maestas, a Coast Guard public affairs officer, the Coast Guard is 79.2% White. Only 5.8% of Coast Guard enlistees and officers are Black. (7.8% are Hispanic and the rest are Asian/Pacific Islanders and other ethnic backgrounds.)
While there are no statistics available on the ethnic make-up of Americans with more than 25% of their visible limbs covered in tattoos, it’s a safe bet that most are White. Lt. Maestas says most Coast Guard applicants are White, and the applicants turned away, thus far, for too many tattoos were likely White, too.
NBA players violating their new dress code get fined amounts that are a drop in the bucket compared to their salaries and endorsement deals. They’ll still have phat jobs and fatter bank accounts. Tattoo-covered Coast Guard applicants will lose out on a job completely, if they don’t meet the appearance requirements–a low-paying job, which they can afford to lose a lot less than NBA players can afford a piddling fine. So far, 26–or 1.6% of applicants–have been rejected for too much permanent, visible “body art.”
Aren’t civil rights activists supposed to be out for the little guy, the down-trodden? Why are they so concerned about fabulously wealthy athletes, but not the relatively broke “Great Tattooed” who want to protect us in the maritime? Are civil rights leaders racist against White “rednecks”? After all, White lumpen proletariat America is now “discriminated” against with the new Coast Guard anti-tattoo policy. Isn’t it?
Reality check: It would be silly to call the Coast Guard policy racist. Just as it is silly to call a sport-coat and collared-shirt requirement for millionaires, “racist.”
But comparing the two policies is revealing–of “civil rights” activists’ double-standards for Blacks versus Whites and misplaced priorities favoring millionaires. Apparently, no threshold is too low to elicit their inappropriate cries of racism.
Employers have a right to make policies regarding the appearances of their employees. It’s not racist. It’s a matter of good business sense and the bottom line. NBA television ratings and revenue are down–a fact directly related to the hip-hop thuggery displayed by Indiana Pacer Ron Artest at an NBA game last year. David Stern had to do something to instill a modicum of dignity into his failing league.
Ditto for the Coast Guard. They don’t want to proscribe Whites. They want to keep those with visibly displeasing, deliberate body mutilation out. Respect is necessary for the Coast Guard, the military branch that has the most contact with the public. It legitimately wants its employees to look professional.
“The 1940s, party-hard sailor is not the image we’re going for,” Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Keith Alholm told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
While society has defined deviancy down, both the NBA and the Coast Guard properly resist that in workplace appearance.
“Our standards dated back to a time when tattooing was restricted to a very small portion of society,” Commander Wayne Muilenburg, chief of the Coast Guard’s Policy and Standards Division, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “Clearly, times have changed. . . . with would-be applicants increasingly showing up at recruiter’s offices with tattoos . . . that ‘pushed the envelope.’ . . . We eventually reached the point where it became clear that more specific standards would have to be developed.”
The Coast Guard learned the one thing the NBA’s critics need to: Dress codes at work aren’t about civil rights. They’re about image. And image is everything.

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8 Responses

The NBA is a joke. It’s a lousy product, the talent is worse now than at any time I can remember in over 30 years. The NBA has lowered itself to what a mounts to a Montessori School for men in a state of arrested development. The collective IQ of the league’s players is hovering below 70. They’ve been shoving this “Hip-Hop Lifestyle” crap down the fans’ throats for almost 15 years. It’s insulting! Hip-Hop is nothing more than a celebration of stupidity, and an overwhelming majority of the leagues premier players are truly cro-magnun stupid! You can dress up a pig in an Armani suit, but the bottom line is that it’s still a pig! This new dress code will do nothing to change the abysmal TV ratings for this professional sports league that continues to wallow in the decline that it has created for itself.

Yiddish Steel on November 2, 2005 at 9:51 am

The clown suits of hip hop are NOT my cup of tea, but neither are mandatory dress codes!!!
We should not be acting like NBA or any other sports “stars” are anything more than manual labourers, so why should they be held to a higher ideal?
The Coast Guard SHOULD be held to a higher ideal since THEY are the people our kids should be looking up to…and the tattoo fad will soon pass, but until it does, the dress code for them is a good idea. Of course, when Jeb takes the POTUS throne there won’t be any restrictions as the gov’t recruits winos and crackheads to field an army.

EminemsRevenge on November 2, 2005 at 11:47 am

Manual laborers? Eh, you checked the NBA pay scale lately?
I understand what Stern is attempting, but it won’t work with the current players. I say about 75% of the current players shouldn’t be there. Drafting high schoolers has killed the league and college basketball, too. Plus, I suspect drugs are having a big effect.
The NBA appears to me to returning back to the bad old pre Magic and Bird days when drug abuse nearly killed the leage. Anyone remember when the NBA championship wasn’t even shown live, but late at night on tape delay? This league is headed for big time problems.

Jeff_W on November 2, 2005 at 12:22 pm

And one more thing…..tattoos are for losers. I know I’ll catch flak for saying that, but I think it’s true, especially on women.
I’ve never met a halfway decent woman with a tattoo. Same goes for men, makes them look like trash.
Anyone see “Wedding Crashers” and what Vince Vaughn’s characters said about the women with the lower back tattoo? “Might as well be a bullseye.”

Jeff_W on November 2, 2005 at 12:26 pm

The obvious has been said but what needs to be added is the media itself. This whole bling bling look could be fun in itself, just as a fashion statement. Unfortunately it goes deeper than that. These Rappers in the music and film industry are stuck on themselves and seem to take it much too seriously. Supported by the profit driven greedy producers, who do not care about family values, these Rapping flashy dressing, bling blingers think they are the cat’s meow.
The mentality is the equivilent of an animal. Strut your stuff so you can get that chick to think you are special. In psychology there is usually an inherent personality weakness in someone who needs such things to make them feel wanted. It correlates with the ME ME ME mentality of just plain selfish.
“50 Cents” is a great example. Videos of him showing off all the money, cars and tattoos in a whore house where he gets to pick his choice of women. Maybe that is some men’s fantasy but he actually believes in living it out on film. Showing the other “Brothers” that this is what is cool, this is what life should be all about!
Now what about those women being portrayed as whores in barely any clothes throwing themselves at black tattoed rich men? Where is the “League of Women” or “NOW” or even the ACLU when it degrades these women as whores dancing around nearly naked. Seems pretty racist against women to me!
How about that great new movie “Get Rich Or Die Trying”. Nice example to set for black youth, who for the majority of them, are struggling to live a simple life. Oh yeah! Let’s inspire them to “Get Rich” regardless of what it takes, even death. ME ME ME with no consideration for others.
Flashy bling bling and rapper clothes do not make a man. So what if you can play a sport better than most, work on the character of your moral fiber. Show the world you don’t need it to be a real man. Maybe then youth can be justified in looking to you as role models!………

Deep Throat on November 2, 2005 at 3:15 pm

Shocking News! Sailors like tattoos. I think the Coast Guard’s new policy is stupid. Turning away otherwise qualified enlistees because of tattoos, does anyone actually on board a Coast Guard Cutter care that a ship mate has a bunch of tattoos as long as they know their job? Dumb…dumb…dumb….

Grant on November 3, 2005 at 1:40 pm

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

KOAJaps on November 8, 2005 at 11:58 am

so i am in the coast guard and i have tattoos but they are very strict about what you can get. The comment above is very correct, Sailors like tattoos and also we are a military service, which are know for getting tattoos. The USCG is also the longest continuous United States sea going services. I know that a lot of members in the Coast Guard have tattoos and want more, but we can’t have whatever we want. Dissapointing. And i Hope it changes so i can get my dream sleeve.

Dubkland on September 26, 2008 at 7:38 pm

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