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|| News Item: Posted 2005-10-31

Leading Off: Clothes Make The Player (or Shooter)?
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Thousand dollar suits on the Lakers coaching staff next to a "fan" in short pants and a ski cap at a recent Laker game at STAPLES Center.
Today's Halloween, a day that many of us dress up in costumes from the scary to the funny to the outrageous ... all meant to draw attention or make a statement.

So seems almost appropriate that the NBA's new player dress code goes into affect tomorrow. No more tank tops worn over pants with seats hanging down around the ankles, accessorized with jewelry bigger than a Nikon FM2 dangling from a Domke strap.

The rule is controversial --- many players claiming it is culturally biased --- but in a day and age where everyone is trying to clean up their image, the NBA obviously felt it was something they had to do.

(Many players in response to the new policy demanded a clothing stipend which certainly didn't do much for the league image considering that the average salary is nearly $5 million! Players certainly don't shop at Old Navy.)

The thing the players should have done was demand that there also be a FAN dress code for NBA games.

At a recent exhibition game at Staples Center I saw a court side fan wearing short pants, a goofy ski cap and untied Converse basketball shoes next to the Lakers coaching staff, who were all wearing suits that each probably costs more than my 1992 Izuzu Trooper is worth.

But across the court from short pants/ski cap was another "fan" dressed in an outfit that looked like something Bootsy Collins donated to a thrift store: kelly green pants and jacket, huge sunglasses with imbedded gold stars and an over-sized sombrero that a Tijuana street vendor would be ashamed of.

I know that "fans" in the Staples Center courtside seats are there not to see a basketball game but to be seen themselves. But if the NBA wants to push suits and ties on its players when they are not in uniform ... what is good for the goose is good for the gander in my opinion!

Isn't it all supposed to be about the fans anyway? The NBA is FAN-TASTIC!

Historically athletes have never had much "fashion sense" ... Joe Namath's full-length fur coat and Terry Bradshaw in bib overalls not withstanding. Spending time at Shaquille O'Neal's home when he was still with the Lakers I met his sister who told me her job was "dressing Shaq" because he couldn't put together a shirt and pants combination to save his life.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Short pants like the ones Peter Read Miller and Max Morse are wearing are fine on the sidelines of an NFL game, like this one in San Diego.
Peter Read Miller, Robert Beck and Max Morse wear short pants everywhere they go as a rule. It doesn't make them bad people or disrespectful ... heck maybe more of us should wear shorts if it got us to make photographs as good as Robert's and PRM's ...

I'm all for cleaning up sports' image. But what a player wears sitting on the bench while he's on the injured list isn't going to do anything for basketball that hitting free throws and shooting better than 50% from the floor would accomplish.

Allen Iverson wearing headphones and a backward ballcap as he walks through the team hotel or Steve Nash dressed in rumpled warm-ups and a t-shirt apparently isn't projecting the "professional image" the league execs want. But Holy Smokes these are basketball players and not CEOs of Fortune 500 companies (though they all make more than a lot of corporate CEOs).

Image control is fine, but let's not strip the personality out of the sport or the players.

And speaking of dress codes ...this whole thing reminded me of a lecture I sat through at a photo conference years ago where legendary photographer Rich Clarkson admonished the audience for our appearance.

Rich spoke of looking professional and commanding respect ... something I chuckled about while sitting in that darkened meeting room, wearing a maroon v-neck velour shirt, jeans and Stan Smith tennis shoes (hey it was the early 80s and I hadn't graduated to my black-on-black serious photojournalist look yet).

A dress code for photojournalists?

Most of us felt what we wore had no correlation to how good a photographer we were. "Clothes Don't Make The Photographer" was our mantra. And didn't the Four-Initial-Organization canonize "Animal" the slovenly photographer from the Lou Grant TV series by featuring him in its monthly magazine? Twice.

But being young and admittedly stupid (at the time) I missed Rich's point. Something I guess that I now appreciate a little more and I guess comes with impending middle age (aka: maturity). This hit home for me recently while at a portrait shoot at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel.

While I don't wear a shirt and tie to most assignments --- I do own a tux and wear it for all of the awards shows I cover --- I walked into the hotel wearing slacks, decent shoes (not my usual Nike's), a nice polo shirt and a sport coat. I was greeted by my subject's media rep who had on low-rise jeans that went just to the knees, a cellphone in one hand, a Blackberry in the other, a short t-shirt and flip flops.

Has my "fashion sense" changed over the years? Or has my professional sensibilities?

You bet.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

NBA fan dress code? Green suit and a sombrero.
I didn't give it much thought at the time ... that actually seems to be the "uniform of the day" for most young, female Hollywood p.r. people. But after reading all of the hub-bub about the NBA's dress code I thought about that incident and had to chuckle a little.

But you know, that look is probably better than my v-neck velour shirt and jeans ...

* * *

This weekend many of us will be gathering in Ventura for an event that I dubbed (tongue in cheek) The Sports Shooter Commuter Short Course.

While it should not be confused with our past Workshop & Luau events in scope and organization, it will be a wonderful weekend of photography, education, inspiration and comradery. Oh yeah, it also should be lots of fun!

I have to make a small confession: While I have received many notes of thanks to those registered for the Commuter Short Course, the real thanks has to go out to the faculty and staff that I basically strong-armed into helping me with this workshop.

Talk to anyone that works with me on the Sports Shooter events and they'll tell you that I am often stubborn and single-minded in what I want to do and how I want to see things run. To get this event off the ground on short notice I really put a hammer-lock on my friends and colleagues.

And I'll tell you ... I am one lucky son-of-a-gun.

If it were not for these people, there would be no Commuter Short Course. Heck, there would not be a Sports Shooter or

So when you see these people ... heck drop them a note of thanks through their member page! ... please offer words of gratitude for their time and dedication to this profession and for sharing my desire to educate and improve photojournalism and sports photography.

Thanks Jack Gruber, Deanne Fitzmaurice, Kathleen Hennessy, Rod Mar, Chip Litherland, Damon Winter, Rick Rickman, Anacleto Rapping, Wally Skalij, Donald Miralle, Dana Bowler, Juliette Coughlin (and the rest of the Ventura Star staff), Myung Chun, Max Morse, Brad Mangin, Joe Gosen and Grover Sanschagrin.

And of course Deanna and Emma for putting up with me for the past two months!

And lastly...this event would not be free for those registered participants if it were not for Bill Pekala and Ron Taniwaki of Nikon; Dave Metz and Michael Nadler of Canon and Jim McNay of Brooks Institute of Photography.

My heart-felt thanks to all of you. You are wonderful people and I am lucky to call you my friends.

* * *

This issue of the Sports Shooter Newsletter features three very personal stories from Brad Mangin on the just completed World Series, Dana Bowler on her experiences covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Thomas Witte writes about a special football player Bobby Martin.

With basketball season to start this week this issue also has a piece by SI assistant Shawn Cullen on the little things you need to keep in mind to get ready for covering hoops!

So sit back, relax, adjust the volume on that Bob Willis & His Texas Playboys CD and enjoy Sports Shooter v. 84.

As always, thanks to Special Advisors & Contributors: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Anne Ryan, Rick Rickman, Joe Gosen, Peter Read Miller, Rod Mar, Vincent Laforet, Trent Nelson, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin, Photodude, Scott Sommerdorf, Reed Hoffmann and Bob Deutsch.

Thanks this month to: Dana Bowler, Thomas Witte and Shawn Cullen.

I welcome any comments, corrections, suggestions and contributions. Please e-mail me at

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