December 1, 2017 | View PDF
By now, all of us have heard about the three UCLA freshmen basketball players who were caught shoplifting in China a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, that is a pretty bad thing. Stealing is bad enough but to do it on foreign soil is taking theft to a new level. Haven’t these guys seen the 1978 movie, “Midnight Express” where the guy was trying to sneak heroin out of Turkey but got caught at the airport? Or maybe they have seen a couple of episodes of the series titled, “Locked Up Abroad?” Or maybe they never heard of Michael Fay who was caned in Singapore back in 1994 for “theft and vandalism.”
The three freshmen, LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were looking at potentially spending 10 years in prison for stealing sunglasses. I’m not going to say 10 years is a little harsh but it is not my monkey and not my circus. The Chinese have the right to do what they want to do inside their country with respect to laws and those who break them. Just look at Otto Warmbier who died earlier this year after being released from a North Korean prison. These guys don’t mess around and certainly do not care about any future superstar status.
Well, as bad as the crimes were, luckily for the threesome, President Trump was in China at the time in talks with Chines President Xi Jinping. So how embarrassing a situation do you think this was for President Trump? You are in face-to-face negotiations with your Chinese counterpart and three knuckleheaded, American basketball players get caught stealing. Not only that, he likely knew those actions stood to reinforce many Chinese citizens’ opinions of Americans. To his credit,President Trump, not wanting these guys to languish in a Chinese prison, went to bat for them and was able to secure their release. Bravo, bravo. Let’s all stand up and clap. But wait, there is one person not applauding.
Enter the always loud and imminently annoying Lavar Ball. The outspoken father of the newly released LiAngelo Ball and Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball. In an interview by ESPN’s Arach Markazi, when asked about President Trump’s help in securing his son’s release from China, Ball retorted, “Who?” Then he went on to say, “What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out. As long as my boy's back here, I'm fine, 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.”
Wow, where do I begin? When it was first reported that the shoplifting had occurred, Lavar Ball said it was “no big deal.” And to be honest with you, I think this is where the problem comes from. I fully understand that he loves and wants to defend his son. Most fathers would. The problem, however, is that the father, in his own words says that stealing is no big deal. I cannot support that. But this simply goes in line with his comments after his son’s release. Now I don’t care if you are a President Trump supporter or not. It simply does not matter in this case. But when a man (our President) stares the President of another country in the face and asks for something he knows he has no right to ask for, and that thing is your son’s freedom, you thank that man. Profusely; again and again and again. You thank that man until your lips are swelled shut and any misguided pride, hatred and bigotry that filled your soul is laid bare. Yes, Donald Trump is a Republican but he also freed your kid and possibly saved his life. He almost certainly saved his multimillion dollar career that is staring him in the face a couple of years for now.
That people, is the definition of ungrateful. How about unappreciative, thankless, rude,
immature, discourteous, ill-mannered, mean-spirited, impolite, boorish, loutish, uncouth, shall I go on? Instead of thanking our President for his help, all Mr. Ball can do is pontificate about how he has seen much worse things in L.A. than a guy “taking some glasses.” Instead of being so hate filled, he needs to take a step back and recognize that his son is with him today only because of President Trump’s efforts.
Through it all, however, there is one thing I will agree with Mr. Ball 100%. This act by his son and the other two young men, should not define him. I honestly do not want LiAngelo to be defined by this event for his whole life. If each of us were defined by a single moment in time, and that moment was something we would rather forget, most of us would never get anywhere. Like I heard in a movie once, “God doesn’t care who you were, He cares who you are.” I do pray these young men learn from this, move on and not look back. I likewise do not want them to look in the mirror 50 years from now and think of themselves as criminals. They may have indeed committed a crime but that doesn’t have to define their life and character.
When I listened to their apologies, to me those young men sounded sincere. I think it might be time for Lavar Ball to take a quick lesson from his son.