November 19, 2017

Press Mostly Indulges UCLA Player’s Dad Who Denies Trump Helped Free His Son

The 2017 competition for Ingrate of the Year is now closed; the disgraceful distinction belongs to LaVar Ball. Rather than thank President Donald Trump for his part in keeping his son and two other UCLA basketball players from rotting in a Chinese prison for several years, Ball, when asked by ESPN about Trump’s role, shot back “Who?” — and complained that “Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.” Well sir, that’s because he did.

Ball’s son LiAngelo is one of three UCLA basketball players who would almost certainly still be awaiting trials, slam-dunk convictions, and significant prison time in China for shoplifting from three stores if it weren’t for the intervention of the presidents of two of the most powerful nations in the world.

LaVar Ball’s ingratitude was first reported at ESPN very early Saturday morning Eastern Time (bolds are mine throughout this post):

LaVar Ball downplays Donald Trump’s role in UCLA freshmen’s release

LaVar Ball downplayed his son’s shoplifting incident in China, as well as President Donald Trump’s involvement in getting LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA basketball players back to the United States earlier this week.

“Who?” LaVar Ball told ESPN on Friday, when asked about Trump’s involvement in the matter. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, who had been detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting, landed in Los Angeles on Tuesday evening and addressed the media on Wednesday before being indefinitely suspended by the team.

Trump, who returned late Tuesday from a trip through Asia, raised the players’ case with President Xi Jinping of China during a visit to Beijing last week. All three players offered thanks to Trump during Wednesday’s news conference.

Shortly after ESPN’s report appeared, several online sites saw a chance to opportunistically go after Trump, and did, almost seeming to celebrate LaVar Ball’s dishonest defiance:

The press has utterly failed to note that Ball’s posture of ingratitude contradicts what he said on Wednesday when TMZ caught up with him:

LAVAR BALL RETURNS TO U.S.: ‘We’ll Be Good’ with Trump

LaVar Ball tells TMZ Sports he expects to have an encounter with President Trump now that he’s back in the U.S. … and he expects it to go well.

“We’re gonna run into each other. We’ll be good,” LaVar said after touching down at LAX Wednesday night with his youngest son, LaMelo.

The Big Baller was clearly being careful with his words — and for good reason — since his son LiAngelo is still in the middle of an international incident after shoplifting in China.

Now that his kid is free and clear, LaVar Ball, perhaps calculating that giving Trump a compliment might hurt his precious Baller brand, has done a 180.

It’s bad enough that LaVar Ball is an ingrate. Even worse, he’s downplaying what his son did, as seen in this paragraph at the ESPN article:

“As long as my boy’s back here, I’m fine,” LaVar Ball told ESPN. “I’m happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, ‘They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.’ I’m from L.A. I’ve seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn’t define him. Now if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that’s a different thing.”

To be clear, as ESPN’s Arash Markazi duly noted in his Saturday report, it was a lot more than “a guy taking some glasses”:

The players were arrested and questioned on Nov. 7 about stealing from high-end stores, including sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou, where the Bruins had been staying before leaving for Shanghai to face Georgia Tech.

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said Wednesday that the players stole from three stores.

Trump gave one of his communications people the first shot at Mr. Ball before weighing in. On Saturday, Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media director tweeted that Mr. Ball “knows if it weren’t for President @realDonaldTrump his son would be in China for a long, long time.”

Trump sent out two tweets, the first early Sunday afternoon, the second early Sunday evening:



Perhaps those who questioned why Trump tweeted out an expectation of gratitude from the players while they were returning from China will now understand why. If he hadn’t asked, the thanks might never have arrived if LaVar Bell had intervened once the players were safely home.

It should also be noted that after getting the apology from the players, Trump tweeted an expectation that they would also thank Chinese President Xi Jinping. As far as I can tell, there is no visible evidence that the players have done this.

Others in the media are anticipating and perhaps hoping for a protracted social media slugfest between Trump and Bell. One of them is Jeff Eisenberg at Yahoo Sports, who also believes that LaVar Bell’s petulance may cost his college ball-playing son dearly:

LaVar Ball’s comment about Donald Trump could spark quintessential 2017 feud

Instead of sending a pair of Big Baller shoes to Donald Trump as a thank you for his help persuading Chinese authorities to permit the UCLA three to return home, LaVar Ball did the one thing guaranteed to generate more attention for himself.

… If this results in a war of words between LaVar and Trump, it will be the quintessential 2017 quarrel. …

LaVar’s audacious comments will no doubt increase his public stature and awareness of the Big Baller Brand, but his defiant stance can only hurt his son. Not only is LaVar extending the incident’s run atop the news cycle, he also could be goading UCLA administrators into sending a message that this was a big deal by handing LiAngelo and his teammates a longer suspension.

Others who were anticipating a feud on Saturday included Nick Schwartz at USA Today and Charlotte Carroll at Sports Illustrated.

It seems that no one in the press has the integrity to say what is obvious: LaVar Ball, having presented no contrary evidence, is lying, as Trump re-confirmed (as if it was even necessary) in his second Sunday tweet.

Cross-posted, with possible revisions, at


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