Why criticizing LaVar Ball is a double-edged sword

As the dog days of summer wind down, where the only major sport on TV is regular-season baseball, LaVar Ball continues to dominate mainstream sports coverage.

The most overexposed basketball father in American history has made headline after headline for his increasingly controversial antics. Since Lonzo Ball rose to prominence at UCLA (and then became the Lakers’ first-round pick in June), LaVar has claimed his son was better than two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry, claimed he could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one and peddled a pair of $500 shoes.

But what started as comedy has descended into concerning levels of sexism and misogyny, perhaps best displayed last week when he unleashed a sexist rant against a female AAU ref. This, of course, was not the first time he publicly berated a woman.

It’s gotten to the point that sports-media figures — who all along have reaped the benefits of his bad behavior — have started to have some real conversations about what they are covering. Giants like ESPN and Fox Sports are still pumping out LaVar stories, understandably so considering the high level of public interest and the fact that digital journalism is heavily based on clicks. But some of their major personalities have started to pose the question: Why are we giving this guy a forum for his nonsense?

Jay Bilas, one of ESPN’s top college basketball analysts, recently penned a fiery column about Ball in response to the female ref controversy. In it, he wrote that while he used to find Ball funny, he has turned into a “misogynistic buffoon,” and he would no longer participate in his coverage.

“It is not worthy of our coverage and not at all funny anymore,” Bilas wrote.

He wasn’t the first ESPN personality to cut Ball off from coverage. “SportsCenter” host Scott Van Pelt did so back in March, in response to comments Ball made about LeBron James’ kids. To his credit, Van Pelt has followed through on his promise, which he pointed out via Twitter on Wednesday.

ESPN’s Sarah Spain took her criticism a step further by invoking race. Spain believed Ball was setting a bad example for young people with his misogyny and poor sportsmanship, saying, “I think that’s an incredibly low bar for fatherhood, and actually insulting to black fathers, that that’s all we expect of them.”

The outspoken Stephen A. Smith responded, saying he was “taken aback,” and that Spain made some valid points.

The irony of all this is that by publicly…

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