I did not want the week to end without extending kudos to Lonzo Ball of UCLA for being selected #2 by the Los Angeles Lakers this past Thursday.
Unless you truly avoid all things sports or have been living under a rock, by now you have heard of Lonzo’ s dad, Lavar Ball, and the “Big Baller Brand” that he believes some day will be mentioned in the same breath as Nike and Under Armour. The elder Ball has drawn harsh criticism from many people who have called him “cocky,” “arrogant,” and a “showboat”—those are the nice terms, trust you, me. I have watched paid pundits, athletes and many on social media bash his “lack of humility,” while predicting that his antics would hurt his son’s draft position (it didn’t) and ruin his career (that remains to be seen, but I doubt it).
While the elder Ball’s bombast would not be my own if I had a son in this position, and while the comments he made about Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving’s deceased mother were in poor taste, as I have written before, far be it for me to criticize his overall personality even if I criticize certain acts or comments.
Far more importantly, I do not doubt Mr. Ball’s unwavering love for all of his boys or his grand vision regarding sports apparel. Further, I do not doubt that some of the hate he is receiving stems from old fashioned racism among whites, and Stockholm Syndrome from some Blacks who internally believe that “you can’t talk to them white folks like that Lavar” or “who are you to challenge Nike with this Big Baller Brand.”
You see, I know that the roots of many of the negative headlines and comments that I am reading stem from the fact that ours remains a nation in which Black fatherhood has NEVER been promoted or celebrated. During Slavery from 1619-1865, enslaved Black fathers often found themselves emasculated in myriad ways, whether it was being whipped until the flesh fell off of the bones while their woman (marriage was illusory) and children looked on, or whether it was watching the slave owner or overseer ravage their woman sexually in the slave quarters or the big house, or whether it was seeing the slave master sell off his woman or his kids for profit—never to be reunited—Black manhood and Black fatherhood were frowned upon. Such was reality for Black fathers for 256 years and even during the 100 or so years of Jim Crow that ended in the 1960s, Black fathers were often helpless to prevent the beatings, rapings and lynchings that were doled out on Black bodies by pernicious, racist whites in the south and Midwest.
The deeply held psychotic impact of systemic racism in Black fathers has led to myriad levels of dysfunction in America. It is one (not the only) reason that so many Black men through the decades have been aloof, absent and deadbeat. Nevermind that many Black fathers, like Lavar Ball, are active dads. No, the popular sentiment of the absentee Black dad, one that is rooted in the aforementioned truths, has made society more accustomed to the Black athlete or entertainer who gives much deserved love and shout outs to their moms on draft night or during the awards season, while making no mention of their fathers.
Such is why men like Joe Jackson, father of the Jackson Five and Janet, Richard Williams, father of Serena and Venus Williams, and Earl Woods, father of Tiger, have found themselves dissected, discredited, dissed or dismissed by pop culture and many within the mainstream (read-white) media at varying times. Nevermind that these men fathered and guided children who earned multiple Grammy Awards while selling nearly a billion records worldwide, 30 Grand Slam tennis titles and multiple PGA tournament championships, nah, the media would have you believe that those entertainment and sports icons were icons because of their talent and work ethic alone, not because of their fathers. Which is some bullshit, ultimately, because typical family angst aside, each of the aforementioned have stated that they NEVER would have made it but for the efforts of, you guessed it, their daddies.
The same will hold true for the Ball boys, and to that end, it is my sincere hope that the Ball players dominate the game and that the Big Baller Brand rises to dominate and create wealth for the Black community in the same way that Nike and Under Armour have risen and created wealth off of the endorsement heft of Black athletes who are well compensated employees, but not owners who can generate more wealth in the very neighborhoods that spawned them.