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How LaVar Ball uses misogyny to sell T-shirts

LaVar Ball is marketing Big Baller Brand, but this time he's doing so by stepping over women trying to do their jobs.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers-Press Conference Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LaVar Ball is many things, but when it comes to business, he is no fool. Time and time again, he proves there’s logic behind his antics, and with every outlandish soundbite, the Ball family brand’s roots inch deeper into the ground.

With that type of momentum, it’s no surprise that LaVar Ball remains ready to seize any opportunity to further the family business. That means turning outlandish moments into marketing opportunities. The latest example transpired at an Adidas-sponsored AAU event in Las Vegas.

After earning a technical foul from the only female referee in the game, LaVar successfully demanded her removal, then refused to leave the court after picking up a second technical from another referee. The crew was forced to end the game early, with LaVar’s team forfeiting.

This was just another chapter in the Big Baller Brand book, but what truly demands attention is LaVar's sexist and disrespectful tirade about the female official directly following the game:

"She got a vendetta because she's a woman who's trying to actI get that she's trying to break into the refereeing thing," Ball told ESPN after the game. "But just giving techs and calling fouls, that's no way to do it.

"I know what she trying to say: 'Oh I gave him a tech. I'm strong.' That ain't got nothing to do with it. Just call the game. If you're going to be qualified, you better be in shape and you better know the game. And she's bad on both of them. She's not in shape, she's not calling the game right. And she don't understand.

"And now she's trying to make a name for herself, so she's walking around like, 'You know I'm the only woman in here.' Yeah, we get it. I don't care if you're a woman, or a man or whatever, just be good at what you do.

"Don't try to step in the lane. She needs to stay in her lane because she ain't ready for this. [Ref] the little kids first and then come up. Because she ain't did enough. She ain't got enough on her résumé, I could tell."

If “she needs to stay in her lane” sounds familiar to you, there’s a reason. It was the same line that LaVar delivered to reporter Kristine Leahy during a showdown between the two on FS1.

LaVar wasn’t the only problematic aspect of the FS1 exchange, but the words he chose to direct toward Leahy held a weight that many women carry on their shoulders every day. By repeating those same words with a premeditated purpose toward another woman simply doing her job, he took that weight and made sure it crashed down with emphasis this time. LaVar Ball doesn’t believe that women are as capable or as talented as men, and he doesn’t believe women should be afforded the right to have professional ambition. He’s made that much clear with his slogan.

Now, he’s taken his ideology one step further by making a business out of putting women in their place. LaVar knew exactly what he was doing when he chose to repeat “stay in your lane.” He knew the cameras were watching, and he seized his marketing opportunity.

In repeating the phrase over and over again until it sticks, LaVar is tying consumers’ consciousness between the subtext of “stay in your lane” with his merchandise, and he’s turning it into a commodity. LaVar wants you to see the video and repeat the words, until perhaps you’ve become charmed enough to feel drawn to buy his shirt.

And LaVar made it clear that he wants to do all of this at the expense of women:

Shamefully, Adidas was compliant in LaVar’s sexism, ultimately failing to support the referee and instead succumbing to the ultimatum of the Big Baller Brand. The irony that a superbrand like Adidas would crumble to the very same person who’s made a mockery of its business in recent months shouldn’t be lost on anyone, as I’m sure it’s not lost on LaVar.

Women deal with countless obstacles in the workplace; that is nothing new. But the fact that this referee’s employer couldn’t support her in the face of the biggest joke in the sports world stings as a shameful low. As women in sports, situations such as these put us face to face with the reality that the system doesn’t just fail to have your back — it might be ready and willing to throw you under the bus.

Following the event, LaVar went on to issue a nauseating “clarification”:

“You guys are trying to make it like a gender thing. It’s not that,” Ball told reporters after his Big Baller Brand’s AAU team lost at the Adidas Summer Championships on Saturday evening. “All I’m saying was, what’s her name? Exactly. The only reason you know her is she gave me and my son a tech. And that’s what it is when you ref somebody who’s got a high celebrity. Every coach acts like that because the intensity of the game is so high. And I’m just saying, don’t have no vendettas in here.” […]

“I don’t care if all girls ref — if they’re good refs,” Ball said. “Let’s go ahead and do it. But it’s not about tech-ing up and making a scene.

“It’s not about me hating that lady or something like that,” he added. “She just got caught in a bad place: messing with me. She’s good. She’s probably a great ref with the women. But this men’s stuff? It’s a difference between women’s basketball and men’s basketball. Just because we go like that and don’t hit the ball don’t mean it’s a foul. But don’t get your feelings personal. And that’s why people were like, ‘She’s a great ref.’ To you, she’s a great ref. Not to me. But it’s OK.”

Aside from the jaw-dropping misogyny of his statements, the hypocrisy that LaVar exudes by suggesting this woman only issued him a tech to further her celebrity is laughable.

This is coming from the same man who’s used the news cycle to tie his name to the likes of Michael Jordan, Steph Curry, and LeBron James in ludicrous fashion.

LaVar Ball is a parasite. He latches on to bigger and better celebrities in an attempt to lift his name higher, yet his fragility ensures that he calls out a woman for supposedly employing that same tactic. But at the end of the day, the women LaVar attacks and the athletes LaVar likens himself to all possess one thing he never will — real merit. And for the time being, he knows that only soundbites and T-shirts will fill that void.