There are plenty of critics of ESPN, and some of those critics make excellent points, especially when it comes to questionable reporting like their thrice-corrected (at this point) Arizona basketball story. And then there’s LaVar Ball and his associates, who try to play media critics in the latest episode of their Facebook Watch show Ball In The Family, which was released Sunday.
We’d have covered this before now, but that would actually require watching Ball in the Family, which is a form of torture prohibited by the Geneva Convention. Instead, this came to our attention Tuesday thanks to @CampusSportsNet (a website and Twitter account affiliated with Busted Coverage, COED, and College Candy) tweeting how the show “exposed” ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. Watch this clip, if your brain can handle two minutes of torture, and see just who gets exposed:
ESPN's Jeff Goodman got exposed on the latest episode of "Ball in the Family" pic.twitter.com/Obvg91SlV8
— Campus Sports (@CampusSportsNet) March 5, 2018
Yeah, it’s not Goodman who looks bad as a result of this. This is an exchange that happened in Lithuania in January (yes, it somehow takes almost two months to create this kind of “TV” “magic”) in the wake of Goodman reporting LaVar Ball’s “Nobody wants to play for him” comments about Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton.
Those comments kicked off a furor Stateside, including (speaking of poor reactions to media coverage!) Detroit Pistons’ head coach Stan Van Gundy briefly trying to boycott in-game interviews with ESPN and NBA Coaches’ Association president (and Dallas Mavericks’ head coach) Rick Carlisle trying to use that organization to threaten ESPN, Goodman and other reporters who dared to relay Ball’s comments. And that backlash appears to have ticked off the Ball camp, as this clip demonstrates.
The clip shows Goodman trying to interview the Ball sons after a press conference following their first game with Prienu Vytautas (in the made-for-Facebook Big Baller Challenge, no less), and being shot down by Big Baller Brand “business partner” Alan Foster (seen above with Goodman) and Ball family agent Harrison Gaines. Josh Martin, who covers everything the Balls do for USA Today’s Lonzo Wire (and has perhaps the worst job in the world), has more details on their specific complaints:
As the show details, Harrison Gaines—Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball’s agent—told Goodman not to publish LaVar’s now-infamous comments about Los Angeles Laker head coach Luke Walton supposedly losing the locker room.
“We’ve always had a good relationship with Jeff,” Alan Foster, LaVar’s Big Baller Brand business partner, explains. “We specifically told Jeff not to use these comments. He did it anyway.
“Not only did he publish the comments. He sensationalized it to get the clickbait.”
That doesn’t sit well with the family, which decides to ostracize Goodman as a result of his “breach of trust.”
“Jeff acts like he has our family’s back when he really doesn’t, so I don’t like doing interviews with him,” Gelo says.
First off, “sensationalized it to get the clickbait” is one of the worst sentences I’ve ever seen. But beyond that, the specific complaint here is that Goodman published something LaVar said on the record. Oh, and something that LaVar said he could use, as Martin’s transcription of the clip shows:
“That wasn’t cool what you did, man,” Alan tells him. “I’m calling you on it. Don’t be trying to be sneaky with your interviews.”
Jeff insists he was in the clear because he asked LaVar, leading Alan to retort, “LaVar is going to say yes to 90 percent of the things you ask him.”
“Your man said it,” Jeff says.
“And you’re the one who put it out there,” Alan replies.
“Damn right I did,” Jeff shouts.
So yeah, LaVar previously called Goodman “sheisty,” and this is an obvious attempt to try and make him look bad, but what this clip really shows is that this conversation not only happened on the record, but also that LaVar was fine with it being published until it drew backlash. And that LaVar’s business partner thinks he’ll “say yes to 90 per cent of the things you ask him,” and that LaVar can’t be trusted to speak for himself.
And somehow, this has led to a whole lot of Ball fanboys (and people who don’t understand the concept of “on the record”) seeing that clip and commenting on how owned Goodman was. When really, this is a more accurate commentary for the performance of LaVar and the Ball camp:
"im not owned! im not owned!!", i continue to insist as i slowly shrink and transform into a corn cob
— wint (@dril) November 11, 2011
Of course, there has also been some smarter commentary on this:
Facebook just released their latest episode of their Ball family show, Ball In The Family, and it’s essentially a miniature smear campaign against @GoodmanESPN.
To say the least, it’s disgusting to see a platform like that used to misrepresent a good reporter like Jeff.
— Cole Tarver (@TheColeTarver) March 4, 2018
I see LaVar Ball has learned what the rest of us have known for many years: @GoodmanESPN is a pro. LaVar does not understand the difference between a reporter and a mouthpiece. LaVar said on radio few weeks ago his comment was on the record.
— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 6, 2018
I wouldn't call this 'being exposed' lol https://t.co/kBD4udX7DO
— sam esfandiari (@samesfandiari) March 6, 2018
Don't say something on the record if you don't want it printed. They can decide to not talk to him anymore if they want, but that still doesn't mean the luke quotes weren't on the record
— sam esfandiari (@samesfandiari) March 6, 2018
Exactly. You can’t retroactively pull something from the record, and you can’t unilaterally declare that a conversation is off-the-record; that has to be mutually agreed upon. And while the Balls are well within their rights to not talk to Goodman if they don’t want to, he’s not the one who looks bad in this exchange. He did his job, and was unfairly maligned by a whole host of NBA coaches for it.
Now, he’s getting maligned by the Balls and their supporters for daring to print something LaVar said on-the-record and was fine with him printing (an unnecessary extra step, but a notable one) until he saw the backlash. And what this clip really shows is the Balls’ own relationship with the media, which is all about what works for them in the moment rather than about any sort of standards.
The problem here is that the Balls have been continually given a platform to spew junk like this, first by FS1 and ESPN and now with their own Facebook show. And a whole lot of people will back whatever they do regardless of the merits of their case, and talk about how great they are and how they’re proof that ESPN, Goodman or whoever said anything negative about them this week sucks.
Because the world’s apparently decided that a ludicrous trash-talker who thinks he’s better than Michael Jordan, but can’t even respond to customer service complaints about his $500 shoes or insanely-priced clothing, should regularly have a giant megaphone to present his views as gospel, and to criticize those who reported what he said. LaVar and his associates may be selling crap, but a whole lot of people are buying it.
In fact, Facebook’s even extending Ball in the Family episodes to 20-25 minutes (from 15-20) because commenters have asked for more. So, congratulations to everyone who demanded more months-old videos of LaVar and his associates talking trash in Lithuania and criticizing reporters for doing their job. Hopefully you’re getting what you want from the Balls’ continued presence in the media cycle. The rest of us sure aren’t.
Correction: This post originally said Lonzo Wire was part of For The Win. It’s a USA Today/Gannett property, but not part of For The Win.