After arriving back in Los Angeles, three UCLA basketball players who were detained last week in China on suspicion of shoplifting apologized for their actions and thanked US President Donald Trump for securing their speedy release.
LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill, who were in China to play in a season-opening game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai, were taken into police custody in Hangzhou last Tuesday for allegedly stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store before being released on bail the next day and confined to their luxury hotel.
The incident quickly made headlines both in China and the US. LiAngelo Ball is the younger brother of Lonzo Ball, the 2nd pick in this summer’s NBA draft, and the son of LaVar Ball, a former professional athlete turned world’s most outspoken dad. Initial reports on the case also claimed that the UCLA players could face three to ten years in jail if they were convicted.
On Saturday, the UCLA team flew back to Los Angeles without Ball, Riley, and Hill as ESPN reported that the trio were likely stuck in Hangzhou for another week or two, adding that surveillance footage showed them “possibly shoplifting items from two more stores in the same high-end shopping center that houses Louis Vuitton.”
However, the situation was apparently ironed out at the highest level of power with Donald Trump personally raising the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his “state visit-plus” to Beijing.
Though, Trump seems to have not exactly done so out of the goodness of his own heart, tweeting yesterday that he was hoping for a thank you from the teens for saving them from a decade in Chinese prison.
Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2017
While the players were never going to be jailed for 3-10 years in China, there’s no question that the personal intervention of the US president helped to get them off without even a slap on the wrist.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Trump got the gratitude he was looking for with each player admitting to shoplifting, apologizing for their actions, and thanking the president for securing their freedom.
“Sorry for stealing from the stores in China. I apologize to my family, my coaches, my teammates, and UCLA. I also apologize to the people of China,” LiAngelo Ball said. “I’m 110% sure that I will not make a bad decision like this one again.”
“I would also like to thank the president and the United States governments for the help that they provided,” Ball added.
UCLA coach Steve Alford said that the three players will face consequences for their actions and have been suspended indefinitely from the team. However, they returned back to the US with a clean record with all shoplifting charges against them dropped. They were not even officially deported.