Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Ball ‘Til You Fall: How Lavar Ball and His 'Big Baller Brand' is Redefining the Notion of Black Ownership



       Lavar Ball has been a constant presence in sports media, a danger to some and a darling to others, for the last couple of months.  Almost immediately after UCLA was defeated in the Sweet Sixteen by the University of Kentucky,  the University of California at Los Angeles star point-guard Lonzo Ball ended his brief collegiate career and declared himself eligible for next month’s NBA Draft. And from that day forward Lavar Ball, with the aid of ESPN and Fox Sports, unleashed the Big Baller Brand’s promotional juggernaut like the Krackin. His brash antics and claims of the greatness of his oldest son’s skill-set and potential has cast fear into the hearts of sports pundits, NBA franchises, and the Big Three sports apparel companies (Nike, Adidas, Under Armour) of his, and, I “think,” the family’s Big Baller Brand sports apparel company.

      Now, I’m not statistician. And even though I have been teaching at the collegiate level for almost 15 years, and have been dubbed a scholar by many, I detest the tedious task of researching.  I have never and will never claim myself to be a statistician.  So, my comment section-reading “survey” Lavar Ball-focused social media posts is probably faulty, but definitely not unreliable, yet I cannot help but notice that “the hate is real.” 

      I have read, and reread, claims and  assertions that the elder Ball is arrogant and even delusional to demand and expect greatness from his first-born son, Lonzo (Ball—he has the same last name as his father which is not always a guarantee in the Black American Community), let alone attempt to commandeer a distribution deal, rather than a shoe contract, from one of the Big Three sports apparel companies (Nike, Adidas, Under Armour).  I have perused numerous comments from people, mainly Black males, rhetorically accuse him of being arrogant, ignorant, foolish and even an exhibitionist of the stereotypical buffoonery of the often-cited legend of the Black American caricature “coon.”  You know, the loud, obnoxious, inarticulate Black male that will do and say any and everything in an attempt to kowtow, entertain, and be economically-fed by his white master, oppressor, or authoritative and financial superior.  

     What I cannot understand is why it is so difficult to rally behind a man that, regardless as whether it be ego and selfishness or grasp for economical gain for himself and his family or a legitimate and authentic "want" for his sons to "own" their athletic productivity, wants his son, and sons, to own their physicality and body? 

           Since 1619, the Black body, particularly the male body, has been commodified, abused, and exhausted for economic gain vis a vis the institution of slavery and laborious tasks in the United States and, for the most part, only white men, or corporations owned and operated by white men, have capitalized and profited from these bodies.  So, why is it a problem when a Black male, and father of the body that the NBA and Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and other sports apparel companies would like to profit from, wants to cut out the middle-man and take that massive entrepreneurial leap of faith of investing in himself?  I say “himself” because any man that has a child, let alone a son, believes that he is innately and physiologically a part of, if not part-owner, of the flesh in which he created.  

     Again, why is he being castigated for attempting to guide his son towards the path of "self-ownership" and Black entrepreneurship?  Is it because America and the corporations that profit from the Black Body do not want to equitably share in the "ownership" of the Black Body?  Is it because Lavar Ball may create a spark that prompts future generations of Black Athletes to "own" themselves rather than collect a few million dollar checks for their superhero-like athletic feats and skills?  Or is it that Black Entrepreneurship and a Black Father, who is not only present, but actively involved, and loves his seeds, is a seldom seen and foreign obstacle that the oppressive culture of American sports, particularly the National Basketball Association, is unwilling and scared, for lack of a more demonstrative term, to engage?  

     In 2016,  the Nike Jordan Brand made $2.8 Billion dollars of which Michael Jordan took home a paltry sum of $66 million.  LeBron James’ Nike shoes and apparel garnered Phil Knight’s corporation $ 350 million dollars while  King James grossed six percent of those profits ($20 million).  Kevin Plank, Under Armour’s CEO is worth a reported $2 Billion dollars and Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight is worth $25 Billion.  Reports show that the three major sports apparel companies, Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour, grossed $32.4, $19.291, and $4.8 billion respectively.  Now, do you see why Daddy Ball wants more ownership or compensation for the talent connected to his eldest heir which will be exploited, one way or the other, for public consumption?  Lavar is only mimicking George and Weezy Jefferson in that he, as other athletes should, wants a “piece of the pie.”  The only problem is the Lavar Ball, and family, want a bigger piece than what has, up until this point, been given.  And some people, it seems, don’t like to see the pie sliced in an equitable manner. But, Lavar wants to be a baller.  And with the surname he and his family have, why shouldn’t he? And most ballers are bosses, and bosses get paid.  You dig?

                                                                                                      -Gee Joyner

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