Adidas shamefully gave LaVar Ball the power to remove a woman from her job
The billion-dollar shoe company owes a female referee an apology
LAS VEGAS -- LaVar Ball berated officials in a game at the Adidas Uprising Summer Championships early Friday and was eventually hit with a technical foul -- at which point he threatened to pull his Big Ballers grassroots basketball team off the court in the middle of a competition for the second time in a week's span. Only way his Big Ballers would continue playing, LaVar Ball told tournament organizers, was if the referee who gave him the technical foul was removed from the game.
So guess what happened next?
The referee was removed from the game.
She's a woman.
And now things have gone too far.
If you read my columns regularly, or listen to our Eye on College Basketball Podcast, you probably know I like LaVar Ball. I met him a couple of years ago, at least one year before the rest of the world did. We're friendly when we see each other. I love his enthusiasm, confidence, vision and ability to entertain. And I think he's done an impressive job, along with his wife, of raising his three sons -- all of whom are quality students and athletes, none of whom has ever been in any kind of real trouble.
So, yeah, I like LaVar Ball.
Is that clear?
Now let this also be clear: Getting technical fouls basically every game for cussing at referees isn't a good look, and pulling players off the court during games is even worse.
Do you realize two different Big Ballers games have ended prematurely over the past week? First, there was last Saturday's game in which LaVar Ball pulled his team off the floor and forfeited because he said he thought they were being "cheated." Then came Friday -- when LaVar Ball got a second technical foul, which automatically triggered an ejection. But he refused to leave the court. So the game was called with two minutes remaining.
That's two times. In seven days.
And even someone who has enjoyed the LaVar Ball Show as much as I've enjoyed the LaVar Ball Show couldn't possibly defend his actions. All eyes are on him these days, for better or worse. And, strictly as it relates to his on-the-court behavior, he's setting a bad example for everybody watching him, his players included.
Is that clear?
Now let this also be clear: Shame on Adidas.
LaVar Ball, at this point, is LaVar Ball. You get what you get, the good and the bad, and none of us should be surprised by any of it. But that doesn't mean a billion-dollar shoe company has to cater to it -- especially at the expense of a woman merely doing the job she was hired to do to the best of her ability.
I'm not here to debate whether the woman -- whom Adidas officials have declined to identify -- is a good or bad referee. I have no idea. But she is a Division I college referee, which suggests she's qualified enough to handle grassroots games. And she was assigned to Friday's early Big Ballers game, which means she should've been allowed to finish Friday's early Big Ballers game. Period. End of story. Instead, she was removed at LaVar Ball's request, in front of hundreds of fans, and humiliated.
That's wrong, wrong, wrong.
Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, to a contract someday, , man, that's even more shameful. And you can say the same thing would've happened to a male referee if LaVar Ball would've made the request about a male referee, and perhaps you're right. But that doesn't change the fact that LaVar Ball didn't make the request about a male referee, or the fact that I've never personally witnessed anything like this happen to a male referee., the referee was visibly upset after being taken off the floor. Which means the same Adidas officials who are otherwise running a splendid event, and who do so much good throughout the month of July, listened to a man make a completely outlandish request about a woman, and then they granted the man's completely outlandish request about the woman. That's wrong, wrong, wrong no matter the motivation. But if Adidas officials really did do it in part because they think it might help the company sign LaVar Ball's oldest son,
"She needs to stay in her lane," LaVar Ball told reporters afterward, which echoedand suggested he might just have a problem with women in sports -- either in a radio studio or on a basketball court.
I couldn't possibly say for sure.
But that's not the point.
The point is that LaVar Ball is in control of his team, his fledgling shoe company and, on some level, his three basketball-playing sons. But he shouldn't be in control of who officiates games played in tournaments he does not run. And he shouldn't have the power to remove a woman from her job for giving him a technical foul literally everybody except LaVar Ball thinks he deserved.
And you know what?
He doesn't have that power.
But Adidas gave it to him Friday, shamefully.
And it was an embarrassing misstep worthy of criticism.
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