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The NBA’s dress code police ask Joakim Noah to leave the bench during a game, and change out of his sweater

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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The offending outfit (Courtesy Matt Moore at twitter.com/HPbasketball)

On Monday night, an NBA employee asked that injured Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah leave his team’s bench because his outfit was deemed unacceptable by the NBA. An outfit that – and this is coming from someone who lives in Indiana – probably ranked higher on the Mr. Blackwell list than most in attendance at Monday night’s Indiana Pacers/Chicago Bulls contest.

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In 2005 the NBA instituted a dress code policy for inactive players sitting on the bench. Players can show up in a robe and slippies to games if they decide to stay in the locker room during game action, but if roster members choose to sit on the bench a jacket is required. Jeans are passable only if the NBA decides that, weirdly, players are sporting high-end jeans. And you’re right, seven years later this still sounds as ridiculous as some of the pre-dress code outfits that inspired it – outfits that include the time former Boston Celtics guard Marcus Banks wore a Los Angeles Lakers throwback jersey on the Celtics bench.

Chicago Bulls All-Star Joakim Noah was introduced to the NBA wearing a pretty stunning outfit …

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Joakim Noah, in 2006 (Getty Images)

… and that’s probably the reason the NBA keeps a stricter eye on the Bulls center as he sits out another game with plantar fasciitis. ESPN’s Nick Friedell had the initial report from Monday night:

"I don't even know really," Noah said. "They told me I wasn't dressed appropriately so I changed."

During the game Noah was taking taunts from fans in stride including one fan who barked out, "Hey Noah, nice skinny jeans!" Noah responded by giving the fan a thumbs up.

Noah admitted that it was the first time in a while he was dressed in that kind of attire.

"That's not really my style," he said. "But I want to be out there with my guys."

Noah then returned to the bench at the start of the second half wearing a blue-striped shirt. He also switched out of his black suit blazer and borrowed Randy Brown's blue blazer. Apparently the sweater was the problem under the league’s fashion code of conduct.

SLAMOnline.com (via @beyondthebuzzer) has a picture of what Noah ended up wearing:

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Sad Joakim, after the change (Courtesy SLAMonline.com and twitter.com/beyondthebuzzer)

For those of you that may not be as obsessed with Chicago Bulls history as yours truly, Randy Brown is a Chicago-born 6-2 guard that played with the Bulls from 1995 until 2000, and currently works as an assistant coach. Not exactly a doppelganger in terms of sport coat fittings with the 6-11 Noah. That’s how much the guy wanted to be out there – he came out wearing a top-half getup that clearly could not have been comfortable.

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All of which leads us back to the ridiculousness that is the NBA’s dress code. In a league that allows for 19 and 20 year-olds to sit on its benches and earn a contract, it’s understandable that the NBA would have some sort of bottom floor code of standards in place. Even for the developing types that have to sit through dozens of games and presumably just as many apparel choices, it’s not outside of the bounds of reason to expect that a solid jacket and jeans combo work around a buttoned-up shirt. Speaking as someone who has worn as much just about every day since he was 21 years old, because I basically dress like Dave Edmunds.

To call Noah out for wearing what appeared to be an expensive sweater over his de rigueur v-neck white t-shirt (barely visible to anyone save for those that weren’t watching the court during an important game between two teams vying for the Central division title) seems a bit much.

It seems more than “a bit much,” actually. It seems like a needless overreaction, especially tossed in the face of a player that the NBA should be routinely promoting as a player and role model that that basketball fans should get behind. Noah has had his missteps, to be sure, but he also goes all out every night and remains one of the more cerebral players in the game.

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We get the impetus. One betrayal of the “button your shirt, kids” dress code leads to that slippery slope that fearful types with nothing better to do but fret seem to always be referencing. This is a guy, though, that is attempting to work his way through an incredibly painful injury. One that made a point to join his teammates on the bench while probably hating himself for not being able to help his squad take a needed win on the road. To bust the guy because he chose a cardigan over a collar seems to fly in the face of every ideal I can bring up, up to and including the ones the NBA likes to champion.

Let Joakim Noah wear a sweater under his coat. We’re all simple Midwestern folk around here, NBA, and it’s cold out.

Special thanks to Matt Moore, SLAMonline.com, and Beyond the Buzzer for their help in crafting this nonsense.

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