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LaVar Ball's misogyny is being enabled by Adidas

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Adidas gave LaVar Ball a pass for his verbal abuse and misogynistic comments toward a female referee, and that’s shameful.

2017 Las Vegas Summer League - Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

On Friday, LaVar Ball — star of the Big Baller Brand AAU team, technically speaking — launched himself back in the news by verbally abusing a female referee and tarnishing the sport.

We can get more specific if you’d like. But really, under it all, this is why we’re talking about LaVar Ball again: He acted like a jerk to a female referee working a big Adidas AAU event because she was doing her job.

When the referee, who has not been named but has been identified as a Division I women’s basketball official, gave Ball a technical in his AAU’s team Friday game, the coach reportedly protested and threatened to remove his team from the game unless she was replaced on the crew.

So Adidas caved and replaced her. Later, Ball picked up another tech — presumably from a male referee since he’d forced Adidas to remove the female official — and was ejected. As Ball again threatened to remove his team, Adidas reps decided instead to end the game prematurely with Big Baller Brand taking a loss.

Afterward, Ball went on a misogynistic tirade. He implied the referee had no officiating experience — something he did not say about the male ref who teed him up. He told the female referee to “stay in her lane.” He said she was not in shape.

That LaVar Ball is prone to misogyny is nothing new: He told a female sports reporter to “stay in her lane” and then sold T-shirts with the catchphrase through Big Baller Brand.

The difference here — and what makes this incident more troubling — is that Adidas completely enabled him.

2017 Las Vegas Summer League - Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Ball’s team is a draw for Adidas at these AAU showcases in Las Vegas. There’s no question that a big part of the spectacle of the Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball showdown last week was Ball’s marketing prowess. He is helping Adidas draw more attention by his very presence, and attention is market power in this realm. Because of his ability to draw attention, he has some power over Adidas. He can literally threaten to take his Ball (that being LaMelo) and go home. When LaVar Ball complains about something, it behooves Adidas to listen.

Once Adidas realizes that he is full of malarkey, it behooves Adidas to stand up to him.

Ball is hardly the first Dad Coach to take issue with a specific referee. But in the way he reportedly did this, by singling out a female official for her femaleness and refusing to continue the game unless she was replaced, it warranted a more serious response from the organizers.

Adidas, it seems obvious now, should have let Big Baller Brand forfeit instead of replacing the female referee. Since AAU is wrapping up for the year, Adidas should have told Ball that he is not welcome at the shoe company’s events as a coach next season. If LaMelo and Big Baller Brand want to play in the 2018 Adidas showcases, they’d need to do so with a different coach. Even though Adidas did not provide the referee in question — a third-party company named Court Club Elite supplied the refs -- it should have stood with her.

Instead, an Adidas VP made an excuse for Ball, saying the referee and coach had a history and explaining that even the NBA avoids matching up officials and coaches who have beefs. The female official apparently had only worked one of Big Baller Brand’s previous games, a game in which Ball was assessed a technical foul, though apparently by a different official. This was the supposed “history” Adidas used to justify bowing to Ball’s whinging.

This is cowardice.

Adidas has not publicly apologized to the referee. Court Club Elite, the ref provider, has cut ties with the shoe company over the incident. The NBA referees union tweeted admonishments of Ball and Adidas. The backlash will grow, as it should. Adidas should be ashamed of enabling Ball’s misogyny.

LaVar Ball thinks all attention is good for his brand. He is testing the limits of that theory. Ball has trampled over the line this time, and at some point, unless he changes the way he treats women — be they in a T.V. studio or on the court — he is going to pay dearly for his disrespect ... once and only when those who he relies on for his fame — sneaker companies and the media, primarily — hold him accountable.

Adidas had an opportunity to hold Ball accountable on Friday and failed. Hopefully next time, those in position will stand tall in the face of LaVar Ball’s idiocy.