A bunch of very modern phenomena — public body modification, lifestyle apparel, personal branding, and the policing of corporate bedfellows — has led to an odd situation regarding Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball.
Here’s the deal: Ball’s middle name is LaFrance (which is also his uncle’s name). This past summer, Ball got the stylized initials “LF” tattooed on his neck, to represent his middle name and his uncle’s name. He also launched his own lifestyle apparel brand, called LaFrancé. Its logo is the same design as the neck tattoo, so the NBA has told him that the tattoo violates the league’s policy on visible corporate endorsements of companies that are not official league partners.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the league and Ball had several weeks’ worth of discussions about this before Ball finally gave in and agreed to cover up the tat. The photo at the top of this page is from the Hornets’ game against the Knicks on Nov. 12. That was the last time Ball took the court with the “LF” exposed. Since then, he was played in four games and worn four different-colored bandages to cover up the tattoo:
If nothing else, Ball clearly leads the league in bandage colors. I wonder which are the Icon, Association, Statement, and City bandages? (I guess the City one is the BFBS.)
In a statement made to ESPN, league spokesman Tim Frank said:
“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.”
So will Ball have to keep covering up the tat for the rest of his career? Will he come out with his own line of bandages? Will he get the tattoo removed? Will he change his clothing brand’s logo? Will the clothing brand pay some fee to the league in order to become the Official LaMelo Ball Clothing Partner of the NBA? Will the clothing brand just tank and render the whole controversy moot? Will all of this become a sub-plot in the sequel to Idiocracy?
Charlotte’s next game is tonight, at home against the Wizards. Perhaps some enterprising soul can launch a Bandage Tracker account on Twitter to keep us up to date on this particular corner of the uni-verse.