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Padanilam: LaVar Ball does not deserve his platform

| Tuesday, August 22, 2017

At first, it was funny.

Or at least it was supposed to be. One man offering outlandish quotes as if he was giving out candy on Halloween and predictions so bold that reporters couldn’t help but put a microphone in front of him.

But now, it’s no longer funny. It’s no longer appropriate. And it’s no longer, and arguably never has been, newsworthy.

Enough is enough. People need to stop giving LaVar Ball a platform and condemn him for the virus that he is, infecting basketball with his amoral attitudes.

Now for a long time, people have seen Ball as a marketing genius. They say he has helped to earn his sons scholarship offers from UCLA, did all that he could to position his oldest son — Lonzo — to be a Los Angeles Laker, and turned his youngest son — LaMelo — into one of the most polarizing and watched high school players since LeBron James.

But if you really look at what he did throughout this summer, you have to ask yourself two questions: Is he really a genius? And is he really doing this for his kids?

The answer to both is a resounding no.

Perhaps Ball’s act started with his kids in mind, but it certainly has not been that case for quite some time. When the ridiculous $495 price tag was announced for his son’s shoe, he defended the price saying, “I liked the way it sounds” and proclaiming “Let Nike and Adidas and Under Armour — they battling below me. … I’m better than them. I’m a step above.”

So the brand that supposedly represents the family, and which Lonzo was supposed to be the headliner for, is really all about LaVar. Just like his ridiculous comments about being able to beat Michael Jordan one-on-one — they add nothing to his sons’ brands, but certainly keep the spotlight on himself.

But sure, no one actually thinks LaVar Ball can beat Jordan in a game. People said those comments were funny and most definitely harmless.

His comments about women certainly aren’t, though.

Too many people ignored his misogynistic attitude when he told Kristine Leahy to “stay in her lane” for simply asking how many Big Baller Brand sneakers he had sold on Fox Sports’ “The Herd” on May 17. When she pressed him on that remark and the remark he also made about reporter Jason Whitlock’s weight — saying “he can’t comment on anything but snacks” — Ball threatened her with his reply: “I never disrespect women. But I’ll tell you what, if you act like that, guess what? Something’s coming to you, and it’s okay.”

His attitude was the same just two months later at his son’s AAU tournament, when he threatened to pull his team off the court if a female official who gave him a technical foul wasn’t removed from her position. And when Adidas embarrassingly and regretfully obliged to appease LaVar, the man bringing crowds into its building, that gave Ball the platform to abuse that referee, saying “she’s not in shape” and that “she needs to stay in her lane because she ain’t ready for this. [Ref] the little kids first and then come up. Because she ain’t did enough.”

Except she was in shape and had the experience. As a referee of Division I women’s games at the collegiate level, she was more than qualified to be at that game. After all, she had spent more time at the Division I level than Ball himself ever had.

And it makes his comments all the more despicable.

Ball can offer all the excuses he wants, but nothing can dismiss that sort of behavior. He’s been given a platform by media outlets like ESPN and Fox Sports to express these attitudes on a public stage and influence the minds of his almost cult-like fan base. LaVar Ball draws crowds, and many of those crowds look up to him. And who they’re looking up to is a misogynist who represents the values that should be shunned, not embraced in the world of sports.

And that problem is only further exacerbated by his role as an AAU coach.

Because just as problematic as his misogyny is his expletive-laced rants that earn him the technical fouls in the first place and his decision to twice walk his team off the court in the middle of its games because of them.

As a youth coach, you have influence over what type of men or women your players become. You teach them the game and the etiquette it requires.

LaVar Ball has taught his players that disrespecting women, breaking the rules and quitting when you don’t get your way are all a part of the game. And his fans saw the same lessons unfold, but the consequences were fame, a microphone and the power to dictate youth basketball tournaments.

Enough is enough. It’s about time the media taught LaVar Ball a lesson — that his values are not welcome in sports, particularly at the youth level, and that he is not worthy of the national platform they have given him up to this point.

Because it takes many people to build up the next generation, but it only takes one to tear it down.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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