What a fascinating announcement by the National Basketball Association that it intends to clean up its image with a comprehensive campaign entitled, "NBA Cares." One of the highlights is a new dress code for players that will discourage Phat Farm-type garb and suggest they sport more acceptable, mainstream togs.
The new program is a smart move in the right direction for a league that is still reeling from the fallout of last season’s Indiana Pacers-Detroit Pistons slugfest. But, like any other image or reputation program, the new campaign will only be as effective as the product, service or institution it represents. In other words, the campaign must "ring true" with the average Joe.
So, will we now see a kinder, gentler type of NBA player as a result of NBA Cares? Will on- and off-the-court behavior suddenly be transformed as a result?
If the league is really serious about changing its image, it needs to address players’ behavior first. The NBA must either institute mandatory counseling and training or provide some sort of 24×7 helpline for players who simply don’t have the wherewithal to deal with their sudden fame and fortune.
With more and more players being arrested for increasingly grievous crimes, a new dress and deportment code is little more than a band aid unless it is enforced consistently and completely. Otherwise, this new policy will have as much credibility with fans as sending Bernie Ebbers and Ken Lay on a speaking tour to espouse best practices in corporate ethics would have with my peers in the business world.