There’s no secret that LaMelo Ball plays the game with a certain flair. Each night he takes the floor, the Hornets guard sports leg sleeves, an arm sleeve and imaginative colorways of his signature sneaker, the Puma MB.03.
With the Hornets hosting the Heat for an In-Season Tournament game, Ball was spotted with a new accessory: an oval-shaped band-aid on the left side of his neck. It didn’t take long for internet sleuths to deduce why that might have been the case.
The placement of the band-aid is right above one of Ball’s newest tattoos, bright red ink featuring the letters “LF” in an Old English font. The tattoo is the logo of Ball’s lifestyle brand, LaFrance, which was launched over three years ago.
Was the placement of the band-aid cover-up coincidental? Or is there a reason that Ball covered the tattoo of his brand’s logo? Here is what NBA rules — and history — suggest as the reasoning for Ball’s cover-up.
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Did the NBA make LaMelo Ball cover his neck tattoo?
The decision to place the band-aid over the tattoo was enforced by the NBA.
NBA uniform rules prohibit players from displaying any brand logos outside of their uniforms and sneakers. While Ball’s “LaFrance” logo is for a personal brand, it is not uniform-compliant.
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, NBA spokesman Tim Frank had this to say of Ball’s tattoo cover-up:
“Per the (Collective Bargaining Agreement), players are prohibited from displaying commercial logos or corporate insignia on their body or in their hair during games. We try to enforce the rule reasonably, in accordance with its purpose, and taking into account players’ efforts to express themselves in a non-commercial manner. But LaMelo Ball’s neck tattoo is in obvious violation of the rule and, accordingly, he’s required to cover it.”
Here is the NBA’s uniform rule on promotional brands, per the CBA:
Other than as may be incorporated into his Uniform and the manufacturer’s identification incorporated into his Sneakers, a player may not, during any NBA game, display any commercial, promotional, or charitable name, mark, logo, or other identification, including, but not limited to, on his body, in his hair, or otherwise.
There is a precedent of the NBA enforcing the above rule. In 2018, Ball’s older brother, Lonzo, was forced to cover his tattoo of the Big Baller Brand logo with a band-aid due to the rule. That same season, J.R. Smith was threatened with a fine if he did not cover a tattoo of the logo of the streetwear brand Supreme.
Five years earlier, Iman Shumpert had the Adidas logo cut into the back of his then-signature high-top fade. After a conversation with the NBA, the Adidas logo was shaved to become an empty triangle.
Based on history, the league isn’t picking on Ball specifically.
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What is LaFrance?
LaFrance (stylized LaFrancé) is a clothing brand launched by Ball ahead of the 2020 NBA Draft.
The name of the brand is inspired by Ball, whose full name is LaMelo LaFrance Ball. The brand, which has also collaborated with Ball’s sneaker partner, Puma, sells an assortment of clothing, including T-shirts, shorts, sweatsuits and hats as well as various accessories.