LaVar Ball’s foot found his mouth Monday during an appearance on ESPN and the loquacious, relentless patriarchal promoter drew a rebuke from the network for a remark to the female co-host of one of its shows.
“LaVar Ball’s comment to Molly Qerim Rose was completely inappropriate,” the network said in a statement, “and we made him aware of that.”
Ball’s faux pas came during an appearance on “First Take” with Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman and Qerim Rose when she sought to steer the conversation by saying she wanted to “switch gears.” To that, Ball, who was not in the studio with Qerim Rose, responded, “You can switch gears with me any time.”
Qerim Rose brushed it off, telling Ball, “Let’s stay focused here.” During an unrelated bit of banter between Smith and Damon Jones toward the end of the show, there was a crack about “calling HR” and Qerim Rose signed off with, “If anyone’s calling HR today, it’s me.”
Witty repartee it was not, as far as Ball’s comment was concerned. Bringing him onto the show was a natural move after his son, Lonzo, was traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to the New Orleans Pelicans over the weekend, a move that effectively ended the father’s dream of his three sons leading a Lakers dynastic reemergence. And because of the unpredictably of Ball’s comments, he’s a frequent, if not popular, guest on ESPN.
A spokesman for Ball denied that any ribald innuendo was intended.
“[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,’ ” Denise White said in statement to The Post. “At NO time was that intended or meant to be sexual in nature or flirtatious. This was taken out of context and made into something it wasn’t.”
Qerim Rose handled the comment, which was perhaps more failed humor than leering, but in an era in which unwanted advances are scrutinized, a Groucho Marx-like comment such as that one draws attention. It’s particularly incendiary when it comes from a polarizing figure such as Ball, who has made a habit of attracting attention with outlandish comments and trying to capitalize on his sons’ basketball talents, as when he told a skeptical Smith in another segment that his son LaMelo is going to be the top pick in the 2020 draft “ ’cause he’s that good.”
That’s why Ball turns up on TV so often. And why a mop-up usually follows.
Two years ago, Ball told Fox Sports 1 co-host Kristine Leahy to “stay in your lane” when she had temerity to follow up on Colin Cowherd’s question and inquire how many pairs of his company’s Big Baller shoes Ball had sold, suggesting that he should market the line to women as well as men. Ball made a crack about the weight of Jason Whitlock and Leahy wondered whether he was shaming people for their weight and disrespecting women. Ball fired back, “I never disrespect women. But I’ll tell you what, if you act like that, guess what? Something’s coming to you, and it’s okay.”
Leahy, who had accused Ball of being overly controlling of his sons the month before, called him out. He denied making a threat but refused to look at Leahy, who was seated behind him on the set. “I had two choices: I could either sit back and take it … Or I could stand up for myself and talk to him,” Leahy said at the time. She continued:
“He goes on lots of shows. He has this kind of shtick about him where he’s outspoken, but with that, comes room for being criticized by the media. That’s our jobs. And what he’s upset at me for is for something that I said a few weeks ago on the show that when he was getting turned down from Under Armour, Nike and Adidas for these partnerships, I said, ‘If he wants to think like a mogul and work with these companies, he has to look at what they do.’ And that’s they market to women. Women are the people buying their sons’ shoes. They make up more than half of sales for these types of brands. So, he has to think like that if he wants to be this big mogul.
“So he was upset at me for what I said there, and that’s completely fine. But you can’t come at me and disrespect me and not look me in the eye and threaten me. That’s just not okay.”
Ball later turned “Stay in yo lane” into a Big Baller Brand T-shirt, because of course he did.
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