Every week, check out Freelance Friday, featuring a rising journalist who is (ahem) a few decades younger than me. See their take on . . . whatever.
BY D’MITRI CHIN
Another exciting NBA season officially has tipped off, and with the league’s announcement in late August that it would loosen its color restrictions on sneakers, well, things just got more interesting.
It’s interesting in a bad way.
Adam Silver is beginning his fifth season as NBA commissioner, and he has done an exceptional job – for the most part. He recently double-dribbled by interrupting those good vibes for his league when he began enforcing a rule on the books that prohibits players from displaying any commercial logos or corporate insignia on their bodies or in their hair.
Earlier this month, Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith was warned by league officials to cover his Supreme clothing brand tattoo on his right calf while on the court. Smith was upset, and rightfully so. This rule is absurd, especially when you consider the many NBA players whose bodies are covered with derogatory messages in ink and how those guys have gone unpunished.
In addition to the league’s misguided scolding of Smith, there was Lonzo Ball, receiving a warning last week from NBA officials for his puny “BBB” tattoo on his right forearm. That’s “BBB,” as in Big Baller Brand, which is the marketing company founded by LaVar Ball, Lonzo’s father. This is the same LaVar Ball who also started the Junior Basketball League for high school and junior college graduates who wish to play in the pros without delay.
It makes you wonder if Silver and his lieutenants decided to blow the dust off that rule involving logos and insignias on the body of players, because they were afraid those players would support LaVar Ball’s brilliant marketing ideas.
I sought the opinion of a professional basketball player. While working for The Signal newspaper at Georgia State University, I spoke often with Willie Clayton, a 6-foot-8 forward who starred for the Panthers through the 2017-2018 season, and he is a dominating force these days for the Manchester Giants in the Germany basketball league (BBL).
Here’s why I spoke recently to Clayton: I’ve seen him enough to know he has a fair share of ink across his body.
Even so, Clayton didn’t blast Stern.
“The NBA just wants to stay at the top,” Clayton told me. “(League officials) don’t want other players to wear other logos, because they know these players have large followers and people who support them . . . everything is about money.”
I agree, especially when Silver is clearly fining players for violating that new-old policy to make money for the NBA through exclusivity along these lines, and the commissioner couldn’t care less about the LaVar Balls of the world. So you have to wonder: What will be the reaction to Silver’s actions among those dribbling in his league with hopes of enhancing their entrepreneurial skills along the way?
“The players are going to make their stands on it, but I feel like the NBA will make the case at the end of the day,” Clayton said. “It goes back to what I was saying in your question that everything is about money. It also depends on who you are as a player if they would allow some things to slide.”
The maddening thing is, the NBA only has flaunted this policy in spurts since it first surfaced around the turn of this century. According to ESPN.com, the league kept Portland Trail Blazers big man Rasheed Wallace from wearing a temporary tattoo in 2001 promoting a candy bar company during games. During that same year, Iman Shumpert was mostly recognized for his magnanimous high-top fade that had the Adidas logo engraved in it.
Of course, the NBA told Shumpert to remove the logo.
How about having this rule removed?
D’Mitri Chin is a junior majoring in journalism with a minor in speech communication at Georgia State University. He is the former associate sports editor for The Signal, and he is currently a freelance sports reporter. He is also a contributor to The Douglas County Sentinel. In his spare time, D’Mitri enjoys lifting weights and playing basketball. You can follow D’Mitri on Twitter @1DMitriChin.