UCLA players back on US soil; Thank Trump for intervening

While LiAngelo Ball and his UCLA teammates awaited their fate in Hangzhou, dad LaVar Ball and little brother LaMelo Ball promoted Big Baller Brand sneakers in Hong Kong.
UCLA
Then-entering freshman UCLA player LiAngelo Ball, brother of newly drafted Los Angeles Lakers player Lonzo Ball, at the Toyota Sports Center in Los Angeles in June. Photo: Reuters

Update Nov. 15, 2:25 p.m.: The three UCLA men's basketball players held in China for admittedly shoplifting sunglasses are back stateside and have been suspended from the team indefinitely.

 

“They will have to earn their way back,” Coach Steve Alford said of LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, The New York Times reported.

 

The players landed at Los Angeles International Airport on a flight from Shanghai on Tuesday evening, their heads down, Reuters reported. They did not give any comment until Wednesday during a press conference.

 

"I’d like to start off by saying sorry for stealing from the stores in China," Ball said. "I’m a young man, but it’s not an excuse for making a really stupid decision.”

 

According to UCLA, the players shoplifted from three stores, not one, and the items taken valued at $2,200. 

After returning from his Asian trip, President Donald Trump tweeted, “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”

The players did thank POTUS as well as the Chinese government for treating them with respect, The New York Times reported.

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

The trio also thanked the Chinese government for treating them with respect.

“These are good young men who exercised an inexcusable lapse of judgment,” Alford said, The Times reported.

Update, Oct. 14, 1:30 p.m.: UCLA players held in China for shoplifting on flight home

Three UCLA basketball players who were arrested in China for allegedly shoplifting while their team was in the country for a tournament last week were released and placed on a flight home Tuesday.

Staff for Delta Air Lines Inc. confirmed that the players had boarded a Delta flight from Shanghai to Los Angeles.

"What they did was unfortunate," Trump told reporters earlier in Manila. He said the trio, who have been held since last week, could have faced long prison sentences, and described Xi's response as "terrific."

A senior White House official said the players had been given relatively light treatment due to Trump's intervention.

"It's in large part because the president brought it up," the official told Reuters.

The UCLA team had been in China for a game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai on Saturday, which UCLA won 63-60. The teams had traveled to Hangzhou earlier in the week to visit the headquarters of the game's sponsor, Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, who had not spoken with the three players, said what had occurred was a "very regrettable situation." Pac-12 is a college athletic conference in which UCLA participates.

"I'm just glad it's resolved and that they're on the way home safely," he told Reuters by telephone from an Anti-Defamation League Sports Leadership Council event in San Francisco.

Since the matter didn't occur on the court, it was up to UCLA whether the players would be punished, Scott said.

It is yet unknown if the three UCLA players will participate in Wednesday night’s game against Central Arkansas, Fox News reported. The trio is expected to make a statement when they arrive in Los Angeles.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Original article: Trump asks China for help with UCLA basketball players held for shoplifting

President Donald Trump personally asked the President of the Republic of China’s Xi Jinping to help with the shoplifting case involving three UCLA men’s basketball players, including LiAngelo Ball, brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie guard Lonzo Ball.

Three players — UCLA guard Ball and forwards Cody Riley and Jalen Hill — were arrested the day before Trump’s two-day state visit for allegedly stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team's hotel. The trio did not play in the game against Georgia Tech, missing out on a win in Shanghai, The Washington Post reported.

Ball, Riley and Hill did not fly home with the team after Saturday’s game, ESPN reported, and could be forced to remain in Hangzhou for another “week or two.” A source told ESPN that there is surveillance footage of the three players shoplifting earlier in the week from three stores inside a shopping center, which houses Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Salvatore Ferragamo stores.

Xi promised Trump that the UCLA players will be treated fairly and expeditiously, an anonymous U.S. official told the Post. 

This official also indicated that charges against the players have been reduced and that the case is heading toward a resolution.

Lonzo Ball said his father LaVar Ball called him Friday night and told him "we are handling it out here, so that's a good sign,” ESPN reported.

A source told the Los Angeles Times that a representative from the team and PAC-12 are staying with the players. LiAngelo Ball’s family is in Hong Kong marketing $495 Big Baller Brand shoes, according to a tweet from LaVar Ball.

LiAngelo Ball declined to comment when reached by phone at his hotel on Wednesday, Reuters reported. The others could not be reached.

Sources told Reuters that police had released the three on condition they remain at their hotel during the legal process.

Often China will deport foreigners suspected of having committed relatively minor offenses.

The U.S. State Department and UCLA Athletics officials have declined to say how long legal proceedings might take, according to Reuters.

 
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