Apparently, LaVar Ball’s appearance on Monday’s First Take was the last straw for ESPN.
According to The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch, ESPN is cutting off Ball (for now), stating that they have “no plans moving forward” to invite Ball onto their airwaves as a guest.
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
It’s all well and good that ESPN is putting their foot down with Ball, but we’ll see if this is a decision made for just the short-term, or if this is a long-term move from the network. After all, Ball has been appearing on First Take for more than two years, despite some at ESPN taking exception with him from day one. FS1 hopped on the Ball train shortly after ESPN, putting him on the air eight times in a two month period despite a heated segment on The Herd with Kristine Leahy that led to Leahy saying that FS1 shouldn’t welcome him back.
Jay Bilas punted on talking about Ball in the summer of 2017, but ESPN kept going back to the well, which included a screaming match between Ball and Stephen A. Smith after Lonzo Ball’s underwhelming NBA debut. The Lakers then cut off access to Ball (thank god), which didn’t stop him from going on non-sports programming to do whatever the hell it is that LaVar Ball does. NBA head coaches Rick Carlisle, Stan Van Gundy (now at ESPN), and Steve Kerr criticized ESPN’s Ball coverage, while Dick Vitale and then-ESPN public editor Jim Brady also fired off some criticism of his own.
A year later, ESPN has finally dropped the hammer on Ball. It remains to be seen if this is going to be a long-term thing, or if they’ll just invite Ball back later in the year and hope no one remembers this statement, but it’s at least a positive step towards making this summer as LaVar-free as possible. Now, let’s get to work on completely removing the megaphone from his mouth.