Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball returned to action on Friday night, and did so without covering up his neck tattoo. Early in the season, the NBA deemed that Ball's ink violated league policies regarding the display of corporate logos, but will no longer fine him for failing to cover it up, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.
A red 'LF' under Ball's left ear is the tattoo in question. The initials stand for LaFrance, which is not only his middle name but the name of his lifestyle fashion brand, which he launched in 2020. Ball has a similar tattoo on his left hand, though it is not as obvious as the one on his neck. You can see the tattoo here, as well as the covering he used.
NBA spokesman Tim Frank released a statement to ESPN on the matter:
"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."
Ball's camp claims that the league rule regarding the matter has been inconsistently enforced and that the initials have been important to him before the launch of his "LaFrance" brand. Ironically, one of the other times that the league did use the rule came in 2018, when Lonzo Ball, LaMelo's older brother, was required to cover up a "Big Baller Brand" tattoo.
Lonzo eventually settled the matter by. It appears as though LaMelo and the league have come to an agreement that will allow him to continue displaying his tattoo.
Ball missed nearly two months with another ankle injury, but was back in the lineup on Friday versus the San Antonio Spurs. In 15 games prior to the injury, Ball was averaging a career-high 24.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game.