Thanks Mr. President: UCLA Basketball Players Released from China

Thanks Mr. President: UCLA Basketball Players Released from China

The three UCLA basketball players accused of shoplifting in China have been released. They are on their way back to the United States, according to the university’s athletic conference commissioner. The three players are LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill. LiAngelo Ball is the younger brother of former UCLA basketball star and current Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball.

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping
PC: @nytimes | Twitter

“The three UCLA men’s basketball student-athletes involved in the incident with authorities in Hangzhou, China are on a flight back home to Los Angeles, and the matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of the Chinese authorities,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott announced in a prepared statement.

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President Trump Intervenes

Additionally, it appears the release of the three students was in large part to President Donald Trump.

During his press conference, Scott went out of his way to extend his praises to President Donald Trump. Previously, President Trump informed reporters that he had spoken “directly to Chinese President Xi Jinping about shoplifting allegations against the players that forced them to stay behind in Hangzhou as their teammates moved on to Shanghai,” reported ABC News.

“We want to thank the president, the White House and the U.S. State Department for their efforts towards resolution,” Scott said.

Alleged Shoplifting

The trio of basketball players were arrested on Friday for allegedly on shoplifting charges. They were accused of shoplifting sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store in China. As a result, they had to miss their season opening game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai.

Ucla
LiAngelo Ball
PC: @DreyerChina | Twitter

The players were questioned about stealing from a Louis Vuitton store located next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou. The Bruins had been staying there before moving on to Shanghai last Wednesday before their game.

At the time, UCLA released a statement: “We are aware of a situation involving UCLA student-athletes in Hangzhou, China,” UCLA said in a statement. “The University is cooperating fully with local authorities on this matter, and we have no further comment at this time.”

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott also commented when the story of the alleged crime broke, ESPN reported at the time.

Pac-12 Disappointed in Situation

“We are very disappointed by any situation that detracts from the positive student-athlete educational and cultural experience that this week is about,” Scott said. “Whether in the United States or abroad, we expect our student-athletes to uphold the highest standards. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

LaVar Ball, LiAngelo’s controversial and inflammatory father,his wife, Tina and youngest son LaMelo Ball were having breakfast with the UCLA team in Shanghai on Wednesday morning at the time of the arrest. LaVar was expected to address the media from his hotel suite Wednesday morning in Shanghai, but he said he was advised by counsel not to speak “due to the legal nature of the matter.”

As he was leaving the hotel later Wednesday, LaVar said: “I’m going to wait until I get some more intel on what’s going on, and then I can tell you what’s up.”

In China, the criminal justice system has a very high conviction rate. Crimes such as the ones that the UCLA basketball players were accused of can bring punishment ranging from a few days to years in prison.

According to the New York Times, President Trump had said that he hoped that Chinese President Xi Jinping would intervene on behalf of the players.

“What they did was unfortunate,” President Trump had said of the players. “You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. They do not play games,” reported the Times.

ABC News confirmed earlier today that the players cleared customs at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport at around 7 a.m Eastern Standard Time.

“We are all very pleased that these young men have been allowed to return home to their families and university,” he said, according to the statement.