Dick Vitale

Plenty of people are mad at ESPN for publishing a story with LaVar Ball’s criticisms of Los Angeles Lakers’ coach Luke Walton, with Dallas Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle calling the article “a disgrace” and saying ESPN “should back up the coaches” and other NBA coaches reportedly trying to revoke credentials of writers who talk to Ball. But the latest criticisms of that article are coming from inside the house. ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale has long been known for outspoken Twitter commentary on everything from concerts to Donald Trump to Colin Kaepernick, and he’s gone after Lonzo and LaVar Ball before. This time around, though, Vitale went after his own network for giving LaVar a platform in a series of tweets Sunday:

When Mark Sanchez (no, not that one) of the New York Post wrote about this, Vitale quote-tweeted the article and added some more shots at Ball:

And when a follower praised his take, Vitale quote-tweeted that at several key ESPN executives, including executive vice-president (content) Connor Schell:

This is quite the rant from Vitale, especially about his own network. And while he makes a valid point that ESPN shouldn’t just give LaVar Ball a platform to say whatever, there was news value in the network sending reporter Jeff Goodman to Lithuania to cover LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball’s arrival there, something a whole lot of American viewers and readers are interested in. There was also news value in Goodman relaying Ball’s comments on Walton; yes, Ball is known for saying ridiculous things and trying to meddle with the teams his sons play for, and that context is important, but the father of a team’s recent second-overall draft pick saying that team’s coach has “lost the team” is a story. It doesn’t mean Ball’s right in his assessment of Walton (he’s not), but it suggests that there could be tensions eventually arising between Walton and Lonzo Ball, and if LaVar Ball wants to get that take out there, that’s something NBA fans should know. (Also, if ESPN didn’t have a reporter there or didn’t take LaVar’s calls, some other outlet would have reported his comments and ESPN then would have had to cite them.)

Vitale’s general point about networks needing to be careful about the platform they give LaVar Ball is well taken, though, and ESPN is somewhat responsible for Ball’s rise to his current level of prominence. (Fox is probably more so given the tonnage of friendly guest spots they gave him, but ESPN has offered some of those as well.) And given how well putting LaVar Ball on live TV seems to go, they should probably avoid that whenever they can. But a story like Goodman’s actually seems like a smart way to cover Ball; it’s reported in person where he can perhaps provide any additional context from Ball’s gestures or tone, and it’s filtered through a reporter and editors before publication.

It’s understandable why people are upset about these comments about Walton from Ball, but it would make more sense to target that anger at him than at a reporter and a company that relayed something newsworthy. And while Vitale’s overall distaste for Ball is fine and understandable (especially considering that Vitale has spent much of his life covering college basketball, and Ball currently stands firmly in opposition to the traditional college basketball system), blasting his network for this particular instance of LaVar Ball coverage feels off. Yes, others at ESPN have said they’ll refuse to cover Ball before, including Jay Bilas and Scott Van Pelt, and Vitale’s welcome to join that group. And if ESPN again decides to give Ball an unfiltered First TakeSportsNation or SportsCenter platform, they’ll be deserving of criticism. But going after the publication of this particular story feels odd. And it’s managed to draw even more attention than Vitale’s takes on the college football national championship game:

[The New York Post]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.