The LaVar Ball Problem

LaVar Ball is known to say and do outlandish things.

I don’t need to list them because his media presence is pervasive to the point overkill, but I will for the sake of highlighting it all in one spot:

  1. He’s called out Kyrie Irving for not having a mother (she died when he was 4).
  2. He’s maligned and threatened a female reporter (on national TV).
  3. He’s maligned a sports journalist for his weight (on national TV).
  4. He’s begun the marketing campaign for a $500 shoe for an unproven rookie while simultaneously insulting 95% of the market by saying “If you can’t afford it, we don’t want you; you’re obviously not a big baller” (paraphrased).

The list goes on, but I believe I can leave it at that. On another note, all the latter events occurred within the last three to four weeks. There have been plenty of other items that have come up previously.

As a commentator on sports news, I have a couple of questions:

  1. Where is Lonzo Ball in all of this? Why hasn’t he told his dad to shut the hell up?
  2. Why does the larger sports media continue to indulge LaVar by inviting him on their programs to promote his platform?

So where is Lonzo in all of this? Lonzo rarely appears with his father on programs that I’ve seen. I would assume that he is at home in the greater Los Angeles area training for the NBA draft. He would presumably be the second pick, although media reports have surfaced indicating that the Lakers (who hold the second pick in the draft) will be speaking with UCLA head men’s basketball coach Steve Alford about LaVar Ball regarding how much of a pain he can be.

If my dad were out on the media circuit saying and doing the things that LaVar has, not only would I publically be calling for media programs to stop bringing him on, Dad and I would be having a very tough conversation about how he’s not helping my draft status at all. If the Lakers are considering staying away from Lonzo because of the distraction his father represents, his draft stock is going to drop.

As one falls in the draft, so does the money they get in their rookie contract. It’s a simple math equation really.

Strictly for that reason, my dad would be told tactfully to piss off by me and then my agent. When it comes to my livelihood, I should be the only one affecting it, period.

How about the larger sports media indulging LaVar? How much are they to blame for giving him a platform?

The answer is tricky, but we have a very recent example of the news media doing the same thing – U.S. President Donald Trump.

In 2016, Donald Trump (herein referred to as “45”) declared for, ran for, and won the presidency of the United States against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. During that time, 45 made comments that were derogatory, racially insensitive, and outright horrible things. I want to make a list of just the absolute worst, but we don’t have time for that. The media had the ability to stop talking about 45. They had an opportunity to disavow the things he was saying and talk about the campaign in a general perspective.

But they didn’t.

They invited him on their programs, they covered his campaign events, and they had panels to discuss him when news was light. 45 was good for business and business was BOOMIN’ in 2016 with regard to 45.

The media as a whole is in a tricky spot because they have to make money to continue to deliver the news. To make money, they need to get eyes on screen. 45 was worth A LOT of eyes on screen in 2016. If they weren’t talking about him in 2016, they weren’t making money. At some point, self-interest for continued success has to kick in, and tough choices need to be made.

Regarding LaVar Ball: the continued success of sports media does not lie on giving him a platform. Colin Cowherd could subsist on guests that do not include Ball. ESPN’s morning yelling-match programs could easily get by without Ball. Yet there he is, 1-2 times a week in some sort or fashion, on my screen either in person or as a story, saying something stupid.

The media got it wrong with 45 in 2016. LaVar Ball represents an opportunity to right the ship in 2017, and they are failing once again.

I think there is also a discussion that can be had about helicopter parents and how LaVar Ball fits into that mold, but that is another discussion for another day.

Where do we go from here? What can be said?

I think a few things:

  1. As a sports audience, we need to stop interacting with Ball. That means the cessation of tweeting about/at him. No more retweeting/quote-tweeting content about him. We need to stop watching programs in which he appears; a total blackout of LaVar Ball in our lives.
  2. The sports media needs to gut-check itself and ask, “who do we want to be?” There’s a reason quality morning programs like Mike & Mike don’t have LaVar/LaVar-related content on their airwaves. They don’t need it and they don’t want to add to his circus. It’s a tough model to follow, especially when dollars are dependent upon content.