There’s a scene near the end of Get Out when the jig is all the way up and Rose is trying to convince Rod that she’s innocent and looking for Chris. She’s on the phone, stone-faced and not even trying to feign concern with her face. Yet, as if on cue, she raises her voice and projects a fearful white woman shriek pretending that she’s concerned for Chris’ well-being. Close your eyes and listen to her shriek. It’s the exact same rehearsed octave Colin Cowherd’s FS1 Herd co-host Kristine Leahy uses when she asks Lavar Ball are you threatening me? It’s gaslighting, coded racism. And nobody should fall for it.
Let me back up.
Lavar Ball, father to prospective 2017 Lottery pick Lonzo Ball has become a divisive figure. His brazen support for his sons has been seen as overbearing by some and inspirational by others. Defenders see his unwavering support and confidence in his son as an example of a black father having the utmost belief in his kid’s abilities. Detractors say that Ball is too loud. Too cocky. Too disrespectful. The true read on Ball is somewhere in the middle. The man knows how to market, as his Big Baller Brand shoes and clothing have been the talk of the internet for the past month. Yet he’s ruffled feathers, namely when he cast doubt on how well LeBron James’ kids were going to play in the NBA or the time he said Lonzo was better than Stephen Curry already. Or when he championed the fact his shoes were unaffordable for so many kids.
But the fact that Ball is unafraid to speak his mind in a field where so many are hesitant with their honesty. He’s also an absolute ham. He milks the attention and the hot take shows. He loves it. While I’m sure Lavar is fully entrenched in his son’s success, I can’t help but wonder if he’s secretly enjoying the attention.
So when Ball found himself on Fox Sports 1, sitting across from Colin Cowherd — same Cowherd who has spent the last few years demeaning John Wall for doing the Dougie his rookie year, while insisting that players with absent fathers don’t make good leaders — he was in the crosshairs of a struggling network looking for any ratings help. In the months leading up to Ball’s appearance on Cowherd’s show, co-host Kristine Leahy had this to say about Lonzo Ball:
“He looks terrified whenever he’s talking…he looks genuinely afraid,” Leahy said on a March 29th episode of FS1’s Speak For Yourself when talking about Lavar’s impact on his son’s outspokenness.
Again, coded language. Leahy was calling Ball an abusive father. It’s been the undertone in many of the criticisms about him. It’s the same way people treated Serena and Venus Williams’ father, Richard. And they’re all channeling images of Joe Jackson’s abusive fathering. Leahy and Cowherd can pretend they’re being objective, but they’re not. They’re transposing racism and white supremacist imagery onto Lavar Ball and his parenting.
So when Ball hopped on Cowherd’s show, he treated Leahy with utter disrespect. Disrespect that she absolutely deserved.
I don’t know Lavar Ball. And I don’t know where he is on the scale of misogyny and disrespect to women, but in this particular instance, he was well within his right to tell Leahy to stay in her lane and mind her damn business. Despite what anyone says, Ball is smart and he can see through coded language any time it’s presented. Ball even alluded to Leahy’s comments about his parenting by echoing her sentiment that he was afraid to look at her. He flipped her comments back on her. Ball was playing into white female racism towards black men and a history of punishing black men for looking at white women.
Here’s where the conversation became about Ball being threatening:
Ball: I never disrespect women. But I’ll tell you what. If you act like that, guess what? Something’s coming to you.
Leahy: Wait, are you threatening me?
Ball: See how she tried to turn the words? I would never threaten you.
Leahy: You said something’s coming to me.
Ball: I don’t know what it is. I’m not a psychic.
This is classic racism at play. A black man telling a white woman that Karma is coming her way is now seen as a physical threat. Why? Because the white woman interpreted it as such. Especially a white woman who has already insinuated that Ball is violent towards his own children. Maybe you feel like Ball’s comments are coded misogyny and intimidation. But if you’re going to see Ball as using coded language then you have to look at the coded and outright racism that has thrived at FS1 and with Leahy’s comments. Leahy honed in on Ball’s comments and immediately played the white woman victim.
Later that afternoon Leahy took to her Speak For Yourself and absolutely lied about the reason Ball was upset with her. Leahy says Ball is upset because she insisted that he sell clothes to women (for the record: Big Baller Brand has a women’s clothing section). That’s untrue. Ball even said in the interview with Cowherd that Leahy’s comments about his parenting that caused his consternation (“She scares me to death. She scares Lonzo. Lonzo is scared of me. She scares me, that’s why I don’t look that way”).
What we saw was a man who was a guest on a show that was looking for a way to feed into their preconceived notions and stereotypes about him. The whole scene was a Get Out microcosm of a black man surrounded by white people who saw him as nothing but violent, belligerent and threatening. Was Ball always hitting on all cylinders? Not at all. He was baited into stupidity — namely saying he doesn’t market to women when he clearly does. He has a lot to learn about dealing with the media, but he shouldn’t have had to deal with the coded racism he faced yesterday. So yes, I’m team Lavar. And fully confident he won’t end up in FS1’s sunken place.