Smith revealed on his Instagram account Saturday that the NBA has threatened discipline for the tattoo he got of the logo for Supreme — a New York-based streetwear company — on the back of his leg if he doesn’t cover it up for games during the 2018-19 season.
“So I was informed today that I would be fined every game if I don’t cover up my ‘SUPREME TATTOO’ on my legs during games!!” Smith wrote, punctuating the sentence with three crying laughing emojis. “These people in the league office are something else!”
Smith finished the post with a middle finger emoji. He previously showed off the new tattoo in an August Instagram post.
“NBA rules prohibit players from displaying any commercial logos or corporate insignia on their body or in their hair,” league spokesman Mike Bass told ESPN’s Darren Rovell.
There is precedent for the league’s actions. In 2013, the NBA made Smith’s former teammate Iman Shumpert take out the Adidas logo shaved in his hair. In 2001, the NBA ruled that former Portland Trail Blazers big man Rasheed Wallace could not wear a temporary corporate tattoo of a candy bar company during games.
However, tattoos have become far more common for NBA players to adorn their bodies with in recent years, and several players have had visible tattoos with brand logos without the league’s intervention: Marcin Gortat has the Jordan Brand’s “Jumpman” logo tattooed on his leg; Carmelo Anthony has the Warner Brothers’ “WB” logo tattooed on his shoulder (as an homage to his hometown of West Baltimore, Maryland); and Kyrie Irving has the logo for the NBC sitcom “Friends” tattooed on his forearm, to name a few.
Smith has already drawn the league’s attention for his affinity for the streetwear company when he wore a black-and-white Supreme compression sleeve on his arm in a Cavs game last December. That same week, Washington Wizards swingman Kelly Oubre Jr. wore a Supreme compression sleeve on his leg. The fashion choice was a one-off for both players. Neither wore the item again last season.
Smith claims he was not compensated for getting the Supreme tattoo.
“People were like, ‘Are they paying you for it?’ and I was like, ‘No,’ so they were like, ‘What are you doing it for?'” Smith told Complex in August. “And I was like, ‘That’s who I am. That’s why I am who I am.’ It worked out.”
However, in March, Smith posted two photos to Instagram showing him modeling clothing featuring every NBA team’s logo affixed on the jersey and shorts he was wearing. The outfit was produced as a collaboration between Supreme and Nike, the league’s official uniform provider.
The issue of players using their bodies for advertisements has popped up in other sports as well. In 2016, the United States Tennis Association forbade American Madison Keys from wearing a temporary tattoo for Orangetheory Fitness on her arm while competing in the US Open.