The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Kevin Wilson
Managing Editor 

Not all debates deserve attention


November 26, 2017

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Neither do two narcissists.

The thing that I didn’t even bother making a bet about happened. Outspoken bragging President Donald Trump and outspoken bragging basketball dad LaVar Ball got into it.

A few weeks ago, Ball’s son LiAngelo was among three UCLA basketball players on a team trip to China. They were arrested for shoplifting sunglasses.

They ended up not playing, and stayed a few days longer than their Bruin teammates. They eventually flew back home, where an indefinite suspension awaited them.

A Trump tweet also awaited: “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”

The players did thank the president in their first press conference back home. LaVar Ball was soon asked about Trump’s role in everything.

“Who?” Ball said, “Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

The Twitter battle raged. Trump said he should have left the kids in jail, called Ball Don King “without the hair” and even went all-caps so you KNEW he was serious. Even “Reading Rainbow” host LeVar Burton got pulled in when Trump fans blasted him on Twitter for raising a shoplifting son. So a black guy with no hair yells on ESPN about basketball, and you zero in on the black guy with hair who talks about literacy on PBS? The punchlines stretch from here to Beijing.

The players weren’t under much duress. They had to stay behind at a posh hotel while a pair of governments figured out what exactly to do. Media who stayed at the same hotel said the young men could come and go from the hotel as they pleased during that time,

Based on that, it’s pretty unreasonable to think they would see 10 years or even 10 minutes of jail time. China wasn’t going to throw the book at three college kids who were there to promote Pac-12 basketball and its television networks — not over sunglasses.

This whole thing seems like much ado about nothing, and it’s a good reminder you need not take a side on every stupid debate.

Trump’s handling of this event is beneath the office he holds. Presidents don’t drum their fingers publicly waiting for gratitude. They don’t attack private citizens for disagreements. And they don’t leave U.S. citizens jailed in communist countries because their parents weren’t adequately grateful. Or they didn’t before. This paragraph is true without crowning LaVar Ball the winner.

LaVar Ball needs to say thanks. Maybe the same outcome happens if Trump did nothing. But Trump spent time on this, and a president always has better things to do. Also, none of this happens if you teach your son not to risk a college basketball opportunity by shoplifting sunglasses. This paragraph is true without crowning Donald Trump the winner.

Of course, we’re already onto a new thing. The president claimed Friday he turned down an interview to be Time Magazine’s Man of the Year, while the magazine says it won’t decide that until December.

Trump and Ball didn’t make a right, but they did teach the virtue of sitting out a debate.

Kevin Wilson is managing editor of The Eastern New Mexico News. Contact him at:


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