Former NBA player Corey Benjamin issued an apology after viral video showed his daughter punching a 15-year-old girl in the face during a youth basketball game in Garden Grove over the weekend.
“As a father, I’m shocked and disappointed at my daughter’s behavior as this is not a reflection of the values and standards that my family holds. Nor does it exemplify the values, character and spirit of sportsmanship that the game of basketball requires,” Benjamin said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press.
The incident took place Sunday at an event hosted by Avac United, which organizes games for youth between the ages of 13 to 16 across Southern California. Video captured the moment Benjamin’s daughter knocked 15-year-old Lauryn Ham, who was on the opposing team, to the ground during the game.
“To the young lady who was punched by my daughter during a youth basketball game, I sincerely apologize to you and I am praying for your complete healing both physically and emotionally,” Benjamin said in the statement. “To her family, I deeply apologize and regret that this happened to your daughter as she did not deserve this to happen to her. Finally, I apologize to all of those who have been impacted and hurt by the actions of my daughter as well as those of her mother.”
Benjamin, who played for the Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks, added that he was “committed to getting my daughter any help she may need and support her in taking accountability for her conduct.”
The victim’s mother, Alice Ham, told KTLA that she knew something was very wrong when her daughter returned home from the game disoriented. That’s when she saw the video.
“The person in question went down the court and shot a three pointer, landed, fell backwards into my daughter,” Ham explained. “As they got up and turned and were walking back down to the other side of the court, her mom says to her, ‘You need to hit her for that.’ And the child in question sucker punched my daughter.”
Ham said she is disgusted and outraged that a mother would instruct their child to hit another person.
“To me, it rises to the level of assault, the way that she does it with such intent and brutal force,” Ham said, adding that her daughter was not coherent after the blow.
The family has filed a police report.
The CEO of Avac United, Gary Thomas, told KTLA that the organization will cooperate if there is an investigation, and that they have banned the girl who punched Ham’s daughter and her mother, until further notice.
“We’re very sorry … we want everybody to feel safe. We want everyone to feel secure,” Thomas said. “This is an environment where kids should have fun and enjoy and be safe.”
Ham says she hopes her daughter will recover from the incident soon.
“I hope there’s no fear for her to play again,” the mom expressed. “I want people to see this is not OK. It is not OK for parents to be verbally abusive, to incite violence.”