Was reporter out of line for asking a question about Tina Ball's health in a NCAA postgame press conference?

There’s a fine line in journalism ethics between asking hard questions and asking those which are too personal to be raised in a public forum. Many are now asking if that line was crossed with a question posed to UCLA star and former All-USA Player of the Year Lonzo Ball following UCLA’s victory in a first round NCAA Tournament game.

You can see the controversial question above, just before the 4:00 mark of the UCLA team’s postgame comments. In case you can’t catch the video now, here’s the full text of the question:

“Lonzo, I apologize for asking a personal question, but there was a report that your mom had suffered a stroke. I just wanted to know if that was the case and how you’re holding up,” the reporter says.

The eldest Ball brother quite fairly refused to respond to the question, citing, “family stuff.” Apparently the question was sparked by a hit piece on Ball’s father, the outspoken LaVar Ball, in which LaVar was accused of keeping his sons from speaking with their mother after she suffered a stroke and later required a life-saving operation to relieve stress in her brain. The article, which was published by the college sports website Armchair All-Americans, went so far as to cite an anonymous source close to the family who claims LaVar Ball passed on being present for the operation itself, instead opting for Chino Hills’ basketball game against Long Beach Poly so he could watch his younger sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, compete.

UCLA Bruins guard Lonzo Ball (Photo: Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)

If that’s true, that’s understandably a troubling statement about the Ball family’s priorities. Of course there’s no confirmation that any part of that is entirely true, and there’s plenty of reason for doubt, even if Armchair All-Americans’ own research points to some corroborating details.

Still, regardless of whether the allegations are true or not, there’s an additional question of whether it’s ethical to directly raise the question a reporter did in a postgame press conference. Based on UCLA’s continued run in the tournament, it may come up again … or not. If it doesn’t, we can all rest assured that the press pack at large has decided one of their own crossed an unwritten rule when Lonzo Ball faced the question the first time.

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