Government & Politics

Trump on UCLA players caught shoplifting in China: ‘I should have left them in jail!’

UCLA basketball player Cody Riley (left) read his statement as he was joined by teammates LiAngelo Ball (center) and Jalen Hill during a news conference Wednesday at UCLA Wednesday in Los Angeles.
UCLA basketball player Cody Riley (left) read his statement as he was joined by teammates LiAngelo Ball (center) and Jalen Hill during a news conference Wednesday at UCLA Wednesday in Los Angeles. The Associated Press

A day after the father of one of the UCLA basketball players who were detained in China belittled President Donald Trump’s role in their release, Trump responded that he “should have left them in jail.”

LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo Ball, on Saturday suggested Trump had little to do with the release of the three Bruins basketball players who were accused of shoplifting and were under house arrest in Hangzhou, China.

“Who?” Ball told ESPN when asked about Trump’s involvement in the situation. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

Trump on Sunday responded by tweeting:

“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!”

Earlier in the week, Trump wondered whether freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley would thank him for helping them leave China. Trump tweeted: “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”

Ball, the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday along with Riley and Hill after a flight from Shanghai.

LiAngelo Ball and his UCLA teammates arrive back in America after being detained in China for shoplifting. They refuse to answer questions whether they stole anything, or if President Trump had anything to do with their release.

On Wednesday, the players indeed thanked Trump.

“To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking time to intervene on our behalf,” Riley said, according to The New York Times.

On Thursday morning, the president sent another tweet: “You’re welcome. go out and give a big Thank You to President Xi Jinping of China who made your release possible.”

In the same tweet, Trump said, “HAVE A GREAT LIFE! Be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!”

Hill, Riley and Ball had been required to stay at their hotel in Hangzhou after being questioned about a shoplifting incident. The three players were expected to be under house arrest for 20 days. However, Trump said he asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to let them go earlier, and they were allowed to fly to the United States on Tuesday.

Athletic director Dan Guerrero said the shoplifting occurred when the team had 90 minutes of free time on Nov. 6 in Hangzhou. He said the three took items from three stores.

On Wednesday, UCLA coach Steve Alford announced the players were suspended indefinitely.

“I’m sorry for stealing from the stores in China,” LiAngelo Ball said, according to The Associated Press. “I’ve learned my lesson from this big mistake, and I’m a hundred percent sure I’ll never make a mistake like this again. It’s going to make a better person from here on out.”

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