It is not a stretch to say Serena Williams is a fashion icon. The tennis star has long had an interest in fashion, and in addition to having her own clothing lines over the years, she has often pushed the boundaries of dress on the court.
In a sport known at times for its unbending preference toward decorum, Williams’ style has sometimes gotten her into trouble. As far back as the 2002 U.S. Open, tennis officials have tried to reign in what is acceptable on the court for Williams and others. At this year’s Open, she was again in the spotlight after French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli stated that the catsuit she wore at the French Open in May would no longer be acceptable dress at the tournament.
“I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far," he said. “One must respect the game and the players.”
It’s a bold stance that maybe the greatest tennis player in history doesn’t respect the game, but it’s clearly an indicator that the powers that be cling very strongly to tradition. Williams responded by wearing a pair of tutus for her second and third round matches, showing that she won’t stop expressing herself.
Golf is very much the same way in terms of etiquette, though as Rickie Fowler has shown, there’s much more leeway for a player to show his individuality. Team sports also can have strict uniform regulations. In May, Chicago Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras was banned from wearing a compression sleeve featuring the flag of his native Venezuela.
The NFL is also notorious for enforcing uniform violations. Though these reportedly have eased in recent years, the league has designated uniform inspectors at each game to watch out for something as subtle as a player’s sock dropping too low. There is a reason for all this. The word “uniform” means that what a team wears should all look the same. But can’t there be some leeway?
Whether it’s a uniform violation or a dress code/etiquette violation, maybe there needs to be some common sense. Unless what an athlete is wearing is distracting to the other team, dangerous, indecent or something similar, then does it really matter?
What’s your take?
Take 1: There have to be uniform rules
Without some rules in place about what players can wear, it’s going to be a free-for-all. If players want to choose the color they want to wear or the accessories, that’s fine, but it has to be standardized at some level. Tradition can be a good thing. If you turn on Wimbledon, you know players will be wearing white. Each league or competition should set a standard so that there’s no question what is and isn’t acceptable.
Take 2: Let players wear what they want
There certainly have to be some uniform rules. But unless it’s hindering the competition, athletes should feel free to wear whatever they feel comfortable in. It’s not hurting anybody. It has nothing to do with “respecting the game.” There are many ways for athletes to disrespect their sport or opponent that have nothing to with what they’re wearing. Players aren’t robots. Letting them express themselves is part of what makes the game fun.
So should players be expected to adhere to uniform regulations at all times? Or should that be a thing of the past? Have your say in the comments below.
From GameChanger and Todd Kortemeier.