LaVar Ball has been banned from ESPN for life.
The gavel came down Wednesday last week as many felt the husband, father, and Big Baller Brand CEO made an inappropriate remark to Molly Qerim, who is a host on the show First Take, on Monday, June 17th’s taping.
LaVar was there to discuss his feelings about the blockbuster Anthony Davis trade that sent his son, Lonzo Ball, to the Pelicans and his comments on how the Lakers would “never win another championship,” it’s only when his comments were misconstrued during a topic transition that the network saw offense.
Qerim asked Ball if she could “switch gears with you because I have a question here,” to which Ball responded, “You can switch gears with me anytime.”
LaVar shooting his shot at Molly Qerim during First Take interview? Jalen Rose gonna bust him up lol pic.twitter.com/HeIB9CFIxH
— Gifdsports (@gifdsports) June 17, 2019
He simply echoed the phrasing she herself used, maybe with a little inflection in tone, yet nothing, many would argue, too much to read in to.
However, Molly fielded the question as an innuendo, sending a ripple effect to her coworkers to think/feel the same. The show aired on Monday, and by Wednesday LaVar was banned.
According to Richard Deitsch, who is a spokesperson of ESPN, the network has “no plans moving forward” to use Ball as an on-air guest, an on-the-record source for digital or a background source for ESPN.
There will be no LaVar Ball on any ESPN platform heading forward — at least as of now. Asked if Ball will be used as an on-air guest, an on-the-record source for digital, or a background source for ESPN, an ESPN spokesperson said,"We have no plans moving forward."
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) June 19, 2019
In a statement to TMZ, ESPN doubled down on their decision, condemning Ball saying, “LaVar Ball’s comment to Molly Qerim Rose was completely inappropriate and we made him aware of that.”
There have been many takes and different feelings toward the initial episode, when ESPN made a ban, believe it or not, the majority of people actually came to LaVar’s defense.
Online comedians, social activist, and even big-name athletes like Dez Bryant have all come out in support of LaVar and claim it’s Molly’s interpretation that’s foul, not what he said.
They’ve even dug up an old clip showing a similar exchange that happened some year ago. Again, she uses the transitions using the phrase “switch gears” and again, he gestures and comments on it. It’s gotten to the point where they’re demanding Molly apologize to LaVar.
@MollyQerim I’m late but I just seen the espn video of you and lavar ball… just being real.. you owe that man an apology straight up… I didn’t even sense foul play from him… you dramatically overreacted.. mature women like Doris Burke need those jobs
— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) June 23, 2019
Lavar Ball has made the "switch gears" gesture on ESPN more than once. And its CLEARLY an innocent gesture. So the fact that the people at ESPN made this sexual (based on disgusting anti-Black stereotypes) by labeling it "inappropriate" , ESPN owes Lavar Ball an apology pic.twitter.com/yaXGPTcRoc
— Tariq Nasheed 🇺🇸 (@tariqnasheed) June 22, 2019
Despite the overwhelming evidence in defense and support of LaVar, however, ESPN got it right. LaVar had to be banned from the network, and here’s why: we must believe women.
The only thing that matters is how Molly felt, who, at the end of the program joked about having to go to HR. There have been too many years of unchecked misogyny and we’ve come too far to let what even seems like toxic male behavior fly.
If she truly and genuinely felt disrespected, what does ESPN do, not discipline LaVar? And they weren’t the only ones who saw it the way she did. From her co-host, Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman’s reactions in real-time to ex-ESPN star Jemele Hill support after, people clearly read LaVar’s comments in a way.
Molly Qerim jokes about calling HR after awkward exchange with LaVar Ball pic.twitter.com/4NMhhyBFxd
— Gifdsports (@gifdsports) June 17, 2019
Kudos to Molly Querim for the professional way she handled LaVar Ball after his inappropriate comment. Maybe ESPN will have finally learned its lesson about putting him on TV.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) June 17, 2019
Why y'all acting like Molly is the only one who was taken aback by what Lavar said? The whole damn show went off the rails for a moment after he made that comment. Everyone up there thought Lavar was wilding.
— 🦦✨America Is Musty✨🦦 (@DragonflyJonez) June 23, 2019
If anyone knows anything about LaVar, it’s that he’s vocal and rarely self-filters. It’s why he has his own television show and made a name for himself apart from his NBA-talented sons. It’s also why ESPN had him on their program.
However, because he’s so off-the-cuff, it’s made him one of the most misunderstood and polarizing characters, which has garnered him a reputation that has not played in his favor. Even if his heart is and was in a good place and even if he didn’t mean anything by it or the tone, he hasn’t exactly given himself room for the benefit of a doubt.
How different might the network have handled LaVar had he not had a bad rep? We all remember, just two years ago, when he was in hot water for telling Kristine Leahy, a former co-host on The Herd, to “stay in your lane” after she questioned him about his parenting style in 2017
Last week LaVar’s rep, Denise White, issued a statement from the BBB camp … saying, “[LaVar] was asked if he wanted to switch gears, in his mind switching gears was ‘changing the subject anytime’ and he said, ‘yes, you can switch gears with me anytime.’ At NO time was that intended or meant to be sexual in nature.”
But on Saturday he spoke for himself. “How I’m going to be banned, I don’t work for them. I got my own show,” he said. “Only time I hit on her is if she breaks in my house and I mistake her for the boogyman”, he continued.
LaVar Ball on his comment to Molly Qerim on 'First Take' that led to his ban from ESPN: “I meant no sexual intent”
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 23, 2019
Only LaVar will truly know what was going through his head and where his heart was, but you cannot fault a company for going to bat for its employees.