On November 7, LiAngelo Ball was arrested for shoplifting in Hangzhou, China. Ball is the brother of Lonzo, the No. 2 pick in last year’s NBA draft, and is currently a rookie on UCLA’s basketball team. The UCLA Bruins were overseas for an exhibition game against Georgia Tech. Ball was with two other UCLA teammates and they were all convicted of trying to steal designer Louis Vuitton sunglasses. LiAngelo, whose father LaVar is estimated to be worth $4 million, doesn’t have much of an explanation for his actions. According to Chinese law, he was set to face up to 10 years in prison. All three got lucky, as they were released, most likely due to the Ball family’s fame.
While on an unrelated trip to China, President of the United States Donald Trump intervened on behalf of the players. He contacted China’s President, Xi Jinping, and asked for the players’ safe arrival back home. Jinping gave in to President Trump’s requests and sent the players home. As a result of the arrests, the players have been suspended indefinitely. UCLA Head Coach Steve Alford has said, “They will have to earn their way back.”
Since President Trump has come to their rescue, there have been mixed reactions. The three players thanked him during a press conference, but LaVar has refused to acknowledge Trump’s help. When asked about President Trump’s assistance, LaVar acted as if he didn’t even know who he was. Since then, there has been a Twitter war between the two. President Trump has been vocal about the ungrateful nature of LaVar, while LaVar has responded with his own controversial answers. It all started when President Trump tweeted, “Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!”
This is a common response from Trump. He previously revoked NBA player, Steph Curry’s invitation to the White House, following his rejection to visit. If people don’t bow down on their knees to him, he takes offense. LaVar should have thanked the President, but Trump should be satisfied enough with saving three young players. To take back the good deed he did suggests he only did it for the favor it would give him. It also suggests that he may not have done it for a lesser known family. He probably saw this as a way to get into the news and shed a positive light on himself. Now that he didn’t get the proper thanks, he has gone off the rails again.
Throughout the fight, LaVar has stayed adamant about not thanking Trump. He did an interview with CNN following Trump’s initial tweets. His main defense for his silence was that he didn’t think Trump did anything. The President was already in China on business. Therefore LaVar thought he only intervened because it was convenient. He said in the interview, “It wasn’t like he was in the U.S. and said, okay, there’s three kids in China. I need to go over there and get them.” If that was the case, maybe LaVar would have thanked him, but in his mind, the President didn’t really go out of his way to help the kids.
LaVar then went on to talk about how the President of the United States of America should not be focused on a father thanking him when there are so many more pressing issues of actual importance going on. This just added fuel to the fire. President Trump tweeted again on November 22 that LaVar was an “ungrateful fool” and a “poor man’s version of Don King.” King was a controversial African-American boxing promoter. Many people thought that the Don King comparison crossed the line and made the issue about race. He made matters worse when he tweeted again that day about his past issue with NFL players kneeling and staying in the locker rooms for the National Anthem. He hasn’t talked about NFL players kneeling for the anthem in a few weeks. Bringing it up right after the Ball incident has made many Americans feel that Trump has racist tendencies. He often portrays black athletes in a negative light. He has always been against Colin Kaepernick and any football players that have kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality against African Americans. Then the Steph Curry issue happened. Now the LaVar Ball twitter fight.
Douglas Hartmann, a professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, said “Not only is it racially coded, and more or less visibly and intentionally, but I think it is also … kind of another way that Trump uses Twitter and other things and sports in particular to distract from other issues.” Then Greg Sargent, a writer for the Washington Post tweeted, “Trump’s rage-tweets about LaVar Ball are part of a pattern. Trump regularly attacks high-profile African Americans to feed his supporters’ belief that the system is rigged for minorities.” A few hours later, Trump responded to Sargent’s tweet with simple, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
Maybe Donald Trump isn’t racist and this is just another example of him trying to stir up controversy. Regardless, what should have been a simple favor for an American family has turned into allegations against the President for being racially motivated. Just learn to stay off twitter and none of this would happen.