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Can NBA Players Wear Jewelry During Games?

Publish Date: 08.04.2024
Fact checked by: Emily Carter

The NBA is a strict league with a set of rigid, clearly outlined rules. While fashion and bling are both allowed by the league off the court as a way for athletes to express themselves, they do not have the same freedom while in a game.

The NBA restricts a few items during play, and one of the biggest is jewelry. Players cannot wear any type of jewelry while on the court. Though some might not like the NBA jewelry rule, it’s in place for safety reasons.

The following article goes further in-depth on that by breaking down the NBA’s general uniform enforcement, how that impacts safety and performance, as well as any exemptions and special cases to such rules.

Safety and Performance Considerations

Officially, the NBA jewelry rule bans all accessories across the board. The rule states that everything from earrings to necklaces is banned during play. That’s important because, while a ring, necklace, or earring might not seem like a big deal, it can lead to dangerous situations.

Basketball is an intense sport with a lot of contact. So much so that almost all serious players get hurt at one point or another. Adding jewelry to that equation ups the danger quite a lot.

When a player wears bling, there are many things that can go wrong. Not only can the jewelry snag, which can then lead to cuts or bruises, but athletes could also get scratched, poked, or otherwise injured by the metal.

As such, the NBA restricts all types of accessories that would pose a risk. Jewelry is banned, but so are any wearable accessories that are metal or other hard materials. The less ways an athlete can get hurt in a game, the better.

Visibility and Enforcement

As with most NBA rules, jewelry enforcement is put completely on referees. They check players before and during a game to make sure they aren’t breaking any statues and are complying with the guidelines around the NBA jewelry rule.

If referees catch someone wearing jewelry during a game, that player is forced to go out until they remove the accessory. Play will typically be stopped as well. The offending player can then re-enter, provided they are no longer wearing the jewelry, during the next substitution.

There is no strict penalty for the above situation. However, repeat infractions or a refusal to comply with the NBA dress code does come with fines and substitutions. The more someone breaks it, the more punishments they will incur over time.

Historical and Cultural Significance

The above rules are set in stone, but it wasn’t always that way. The NBA is an ever-changing league who has shifted their policies more than a few times during their existence. Jewelry wasn’t worn early on, but it rose in popularity in the last 70’s.

In response to that shift, the NBA banned large jewelry and chains in 1980. Restrictions on what players could wear further tightened in 2005, when the NBA introduced their official dress code to homogenize what players could wear on the court.

Many athletes were upset at the move, stating that they could no longer freely express themselves. However, the practical reasons for banning in-game jewelry outweighed their complaints.

NBA players can no longer wear earrings, rings, or smaller accessories either. That rule has only gotten tighter over time, restricting even a few extra clothing items, and shows no signs of going back to the way it used to be.

Exemptions and Special Cases

The NBA, as with any sports league, has a strict set of rules. However, most of the time there are exemptions to such rules or some special cases. That is not the case with jewelry. The league restricts every accessory, stating players cannot play with any type of bling.

The only exception for wearing something hard during a game applies to injury rehabilitation devices, including casts, splints, guards, and braces. Athletes can play in a game wearing such metal, as long as it’s padded or covered in foam so that there are no exposed edges.

The same rules for any mask or eye protectors. Unfortunately, as there are no such rules in place for jewelry, and due to the fact that most jewelry has sharp or hard edges, it is banned across the board at the referees discretion.

Conclusion

Jewelry has a strong foothold among NBA players. It’s a popular accessory, and one of the main ways professional athletes show off. Even so, they have to keep it to pre and post game.

Despite the pushback against the NBA jewelry rule, there are simply too many issues or complications that can come from an athlete wearing bling on the court.

The league went through various iterations and updates to its uniform policy over the years, but the jewelry ban has been in its current place for quite some time. It’s likely not anywhere.

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