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In LaVar Ball, Trump Targets Find Their Dragon Slayer

Human Nature file photo

The epic, ongoing feud between President Donald Trump and media personality LaVar Ball over a perceived slight has drawn international attention and has been a trending topic for about a week.

The latest in the media tennis match occurred early Wednesday morning (Nov. 22) when President Trump angrily responded to LaVar Ball’s well-received interview on CNN in which he questioned why the President is even feuding with him in the first place, saying “why are we talking about this with all these political matters going on in the world?”

President Trump responded to what he saw as Ball minimizing his role in the release of his son, tweeting at the crack of dawn that Ball was an “ungrateful fool” and a “poor man’s Don King,” adding that “IT WAS ME,” who helped secure the release.

Depending on who you are, the Trump versus Ball feud is either a media clash of the titians, another example disturbing example of the President’s attacks on minorities, or, in its simplest form, pure entertainment.

The Trump/Ball feud sprouted out of a Nov. 7 incident in which Ball’s son, LiAngelo Ball, and two UCLA basketball teammates were detained in China for shoplifting. The incident drew international attention, as it coincided with President Trump’s visit to Asia.

The stakes were high for Ball, as a shoplifting conviction in China could result in a sentence of three to 10 years. However, experts said that scenario was highly unlikely for the student-athletes and that a fine is the most likely result.

Ball, who is LiAngelo’s father in addition to NBA rookie Lonzo Ball of the Los Angeles Lakers, was in China the same week as the arrest and attended to the situation. In a statement released in the days following LiAngelo’s arrest, LaVar offered insight into how the family is handling the incident, saying “it is a very unfortunate situation that the Ball family and UCLA has to deal with at this particular time.”

The Ball Family were all in China to take in LiAngelo’s game and to promote two pop-up shop openings the family’s Big Baller Brand (BBB) apparel and footwear company is having in the country later this month. The family was also filming for season two of their Facebook reality show “Ball in the Family.”

From the outset of the arrest, officials with UCLA and the U.S. State Department were attending to the matter, which also had the attention of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, which sponsored the game that brought the UCLA Men’s basketball team to China.

Joe Tsai, Vice-Chairman of Alibaba Group, who also set to become an owner of the Brooklyn Nets, said at the time that the entire incident could be a learning experience for the students.

“I think the spirit of sport is that we do not pursue perfection; what we pursue is progress,” he said. “Young people are bound to make mistakes, but the key is that after you have made a mistake, how do you respond to this situation?”

In a statement provided to TMZ on Nov. 8, the U.S. State Department said ‎”we are aware of reports of three U.S. citizens arrested and subsequently released on bail in China. Adding that “we stand ready to provide appropriate consular assistance for U.S. citizens.”

The Return

Ball and his teammates Jalen Hill and Cody Riley, returned to Los Angeles the evening of Nov. 14 after the incident was “resolved to the satisfaction of the Chinese authorities,” according to a statement released by the Pac-12 conference.

President Trump told reporters earlier that day that he personally asked Chinese President Xi Jinping at a leaders meeting to “help resolve the case” against LiAngelo Ball and his teammates. He said the Chinese president promised to look into the case and ensure that the players are treated fairly and expeditiously, the Post reported.

Following the release of the UCLA students, the country breathed a sigh of relief. Trump, whose administration has been under investigation by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller for its ties to the Russian hacking scandal among other alleged charges, immediately took credit for the boys’ release on Twitter.

Following press conference at UCLA in which the student-athletes apologized and thanked the State Department and President Trump for their help, the president took to Twitter again for a victory lap, saying “you’re welcome,” adding that they owed Chinese President Xi Jinping thanks, as well before concluding “HAVE A GREAT LIFE!”

When asked last Friday (Nov. 17) about President Trump’s role in freeing his son, LaVar Ball responded with a now famous “Who?,” adding “what was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

Days later, Trump expressed his displeasure with the statement and went after Ball in a series of tweets, saying that he is “unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal,” adding that he “should have left them in jail!”

A few hours later, he tweeted that Ball “should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful!”

Ball has disputed claims that he’s disrespected the President’s efforts by refusing to acknowledge his involvement in his son’s case, telling Chris Cuomo on CNN “that’s not disrespectful if I feel nobody did anything. I don’t have to go around saying, ‘Thank you,’ to everybody. … I have to know what somebody’s doing before I say, ‘Thank you. ”

Latest in Long List of Minority Feuds

Media and Twitter feuds for President Trump are nothing new. In recent months, he has attacked professional athletes, Congress members and the media. In his tweet attacking LaVar Ball, Trump also criticized Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch for continuing to sit during the national anthem.

Many media analysts and social media users are pointing out the similarities between Trump’s beef with LaVar Ball and his other feuds, which have frequently involved women and minorities, who may have less financial and political support to mount a strong enough defense against Trump’s sharp barbs.

Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California said in an interview on CNN that the President continues to single out African-Americans, pointing to his attacks on NFL players as an example.

“Right now he’s focusing on the African-Americans, obviously the football players protesting by not standing for the national anthem,” he said. “Protest is a tradition in America but the president seems to be focused basically now on African-Americans, previously on others.”

Tony Schwartz, who co-wrote “The Art of The Deal” with Trump, said in a CNN interview that Trump’s past views on African Americans may play a role in his current behavior.

“First of all, his father (LiAngelo Ball) is a tall black man and I think Trump is half awed and half frightened by black people and his only way of dealing with them is to attack them,” Schwartz said. “And, on the other hand, I think he has a zero tolerance for any criticism of any kind, that’s why he goes after anybody that says virtually anything about him that’s negative,” Schwartz explained.

In Ball, media pundits say, Trump may have found a worthy opponent – somebody with a big enough personality and financial independence to take him on.

Cathal Kelly, of Canada’s The Globe and Mail, wrote that Ball’s feud with Trump is needed.

“LaVar Ball is the ideal man to pull Binky duty.” Kelly wrote. “He’s the hero the world needs right now. If he accepts the challenge, he may also be the last famous person in the United States who at the moment can credibly claim to be doing real public service.”

The Ball Brand

In addition to defending his family against the president’s attacks, Ball has also generated significant exposure for his Big Baller Brand apparel and footwear company.
It is estimated that Big Baller Brand has received about $13.2 million in free digital and TV advertising since the Trump/Ball feud began on Nov. 17, according the Apex Marketing Group.

“This back and forth with Donald Trump has extended the brand awareness outside of just sports,” Apex Marketing Group president Eric Smallwood told Yahoo Sports. “People who don’t follow sports are starting to get more awareness of the brand. To have that reaction from someone as high up as Trump, it has definitely helped [Ball] reach a larger audience.”

Lavar Ball interview

LaVar Smile two

Lavar Ball with fan

LaVar Ball look down

(LaVar Ball at Bulls vs. Lakers game Nov. 21, 2017/Human Nature photo)