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Celebrity Crime and Punishment

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

A Google search of the names “LaVar Ball Trump” pulls up dozens of articles with titles like this: “Trump supporters are confusing LeVar Burton with LaVar Ball” (Huffington Post), “Angry Trump fans keep yelling at LeVar Burton, not LaVar Ball” (New York Daily Post), “Trump supporters confuse LeVar Burton with LaVar Ball Online” (  It was a golden opportunity for the leftwing media to ridicule Trump supporters who appear to be so ignorant of popular culture because they could not distinguish between the actor from Star Trek-The Next Generation and a reality show celebrity.

There should have been headlines like this: “UCLA Players Disgrace the US,” “Son of rich US Celebrity Caught Shoplifting in China,” “Irony: LaVar Ball Opens Stores in China Days After Son is Caught Shoplifting,” “ LaVar Ball Not Embarrassed by Son’s Disgraceful Act.”

The incident that started this media frenzy took place in Shanghai, China, on or around November 7, 2017.  The UCLA basketball team was in that part of the world for an overseas promotional game against Georgia Tech.  Three freshmen players on the UCLA team—LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill—went to a Louis Vuitton store near their hotel and were allegedly caught stealing sunglasses.  The players were arrested but then released on bond and allowed to return to their hotel, apparently aided by the US Embassy.  One of the players, LiAngelo Ball, is the brother of NBA rookie Lonzo Ball and the son of reality show personality LaVar Ball.  Ironically, LaVar Ball was in China at the time of the incident to promote the opening of two stores to sell his Big Baller brand shirts and hoodies.

The elder Ball’s comments after his son’s arrest were particularly noteworthy.  He didn’t say, “I apologize sincerely to the Chinese people and the employees in that store.I’m terribly sorry for the awful thing my son did; that’s not the way his mother and I raised him.”  Instead, he said, “Everybody making it a big deal.It ain’t that big a deal.”  He did not say, though whether it would be a big deal if Chinese shoppers decided to steal shirts and hoodies from his two stores.

There used to be a time when taking others’ possessions was a big deal everywhere.  “Thou shalt not steal,” is eighth of the Ten Commandments—it’s a sin.But nowadays, as our culture and morality decay, it’s shrugged off—it just happens.

The incident in China did not end, however, with the players being released on bond. President Trump happened to be in China for a scheduled official state visit just a few days after the incident.  Feeling it was his duty to intervene, he asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to show leniency and allow the three UCLA players to return to the US.  Surprisingly, Xi agreed.

Rightfully so, the three players were grateful for being allowed to leave China and staying out of jail, and they thanked President Trump.  But LiAngelo Ball’s father, bigmouth LaVar Ball, told the public he had no reason to thank the president.The elder Ball said on a CNN show, “You know where my boy is at right now because of me.  Don't come in one time and think you did something for my son.”

When LaVar Ball said, “you,” he was, of course, referring to Donald Trump.  And so Ball, by attacking the president, skyrocketed in esteem among the media elite, and went from obnoxious, moronic TV personality to modern-day sage overnight. 

Trump, being Trump, couldn’t leave that dis alone.  But instead of responding with something witty like “It’s too bad that LaVar didn’t teach his son that stealing is wrong,” he responded with a tweet which said, “Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!” 

Ironically, Trump stumbled into the truth; he should have left those basketball players in China.  Why?  Because a few months in a Chinese prison would have made a strong impression on them and would have discouraged other visiting basketball players from committing similar egregious acts.  But also, because asking for leniency for these guys sends the message that celebrities should get special treatment.  They should not.   If I, an ordinary shlub, were caught shoplifting in China, for example, I would rot in jail for a long, long time before anyone in the US government would speak up on my behalf.

The lessons from this incident are abundant:  A young man raised in comfortable surroundings with all the money he could ever need, feels it’s okay to steal from a store—in a foreign country, where the average income is only about $10,000 a year.  The US president thinks that celebrities should not face the consequences for their crimes committed overseas.  A reality show celebrity and virtually all of the mainstream media think that stealing is “no big deal.”  Any loudmouth, grammatically-challenged celebrity can gain the admiration of the mainstream media by verbally attacking Donald Trump, and the president still doesn’t know how to write a witty tweet.  The final lesson is that Americans are losing their ability to distinguish right from wrong, and that cannot lead in a good direction.

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