The episode of the Ball In The Family reality show about the Ball family's arrival in Prienai – Birstonas Vytautas basketball club has been viewed by an audience of 900,000 over 24 hours. Lithuanians living in the US say the reality show has a total of about two million viewers.
"Creation of the reality show does not benefit from building an image of a modern and interesting country that is attractive tourists. To attract more viewer attention, they are juggling stereotypes and biased facts," Gerda Butkuvienė, spokeswoman for the State Tourism Department, told BNS Lithuania.
In her words, officials of the department got in contact with the Ball family and producers of the reality show at the start of their stay in Lithuania, however, they refused the help they were offered to get to know the country better.
In one of the episodes, the Ball siblings decided to take a walk around Prienai, a city of just under 10,000 residents in southern Lithuania. After seeing the empty streets of Prienai, Vytautas' forward LiAngelo Ball said the city looked "like a scary movie out there," while his brother LaMelo, a guard at Vytautas, complained about the chilly weather.
In Butkuvienė's words, it is sad to see, especially after the impressions the Ball family had given to the Lithuanian media were quite different from what they say in the reality show.
Prienai Mayor Happy
Meanwhile, Alvydas Vaicekauskas, Prienai mayor, is of an entirely different opinion – he believes the message spread by the Balls benefits both the city and the country.
"In my view, the information they tell about Prienai and Lithuania is positive. When you look at the whole picture without going deep into detail, they speak quite well about our people and our land," said the mayor.
One of the reality show episodes speaks well about the Prienai mayor – LaVar Ball, the father of the two brothers, was happy about the cake received from the mayor.
"Man, over here in Lithuania I did not expect anything to happen like this. We got the mayor and he gave us a huge welcome. I mean, it's just a great gesture on the fact that they wanna get to know us. They want us to become part of their family quick as possible. Anybody who treat me and my boys right, I'm cool," said Ball.
The mayor noted that the Prienai municipality had already felt benefits from the Ball family's visit.
"First of all, more people come to see basketball matches, for instance, the arena did not fit everyone who wanted to come and see the game with Zalgiris Kaunas. This had never happened before. Some restaurants also have more clients. Without doubt, there is also the obvious financial benefit for our basketball club," he told BNS.