NBA’s Remaining Conflict with Player Expression


Taken by @teamwish Instagram

J.R. Smith’s Supreme calf tattoo which has recently stirred up controversy in the NBA.

Joe Riera, Staff Writer

The National Basketball Association is set to start allowing players to wear shoes of any color in the upcoming 2018-19 season, league sources confirm. After years of fines and violations, players finally will have the ability to wear what they please. Players can now wear colors to support a cause and spread awareness for a disease.

Although individual teams will be able to set up policies regarding shoes for their own players, this is a huge step into the right direction for NBA sneaker enthusiasts and everyday “sneaker-heads” alike. This allows players to express themselves on the court in ways they were not able to before. In addition, it gives sneaker brands the opportunity to market brightly colored sneakers with more ease by having pro-players wear them on court. This also could lead to an influx of players opting for general release colorways of shoes rather than custom “Player Edition” or “PE” variants.

Over the years, the NBA has notoriously fined players for wearing certain logos and colors that it put restrictions on. A notable example of this just unfolded when the NBA reportedly contacted J.R. Smith, Cleveland Cavaliers small forward, and told him he would be fined every game he didn’t cover up his Supreme tattoo. J.R., being a notable advocate of the brand Supreme, modeled for a Supreme X NBA collaboration collection that released in March 2018. He was also seen earlier this year wearing a Supreme branded shooters sleeve, which he was reportedly fined for wearing. J.R. is now in a frustrating situation where he is being fined for a piece of body art he cannot remove.

I swear I’m the only person they do [stuff] like this to! So you mean to tell me I have to cover up my tattoo for what? You don’t make people cover up Jordan logos NIKE checks or anything,” said J.R. Smith on Instagram.

Although he did not show perfect cooperation at first, J.R. ended up covering his tattoo with a strip of athletic tape.

Similarly Lonzo Ball was seen with his “Big Baller Brand” tattoo covered on October 10 in the Lakers preseason clash with the Warriors. He reportedly was asked by the NBA to cover his tattoo as well. Whether or not J.R. Smith and Lonzo Ball handled their situations the right way, was the NBA in the right to even tell them to cover up their tattoos in the first place?

“NBA rules prohibit players from displaying any commercial logos or corporate insignia on their body or in their hair,” said NBA League Spokesperson Mike Bass.

John Locher
Players on the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are pictured wearing shoes that don’t match their uniforms.

Is this rule necessary, or does it keep players from expressing themselves with logos that they feel a connection to on a deep level?

The NBA is making moves in two different directions. On one hand, the league seems to be letting players freely express themselves with whatever color shoes they want to. On the other hand, they are being crucially restrictive, by going as far as telling players they need to cover their tattoos. Whether the NBA has the right to put restrictions on tattoos or not, they continue to make headlines with new policies regarding on-court fashion.