Three UCLA basketball players are back home in the U.S. after being arrested last week on suspicion of shoplifting while in China. The players will speak publicly form the first time today at a campus press conference. pic.twitter.com/Leva1VhlRF— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 15, 2017
LiAngelo Ball and the two other UCLA teammates charged with shoplifting in China are off the hook, from the law at least. The three Bruins arrived from their flight from China to Los Angeles on Tuesday, days after Donald Trump for assistance in resolving the matter.
Ball and his teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were arrested on charges of trying to shoplift sunglasses in China. They were in China to play Georgia Tech, and after being charged they were kept in their hotel and weren't allowed to return stateside with the rest of the team.
Trump, however, wants his role in that extradition to be known. He tweeted on Wednesday morning, asking if the players would "say thank you to President Trump."
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
Apparently the conversations with Xi progressed if he knew how much jailtime the players were looking at. Apparently LaVar Ball was half right when he said "it ain't that big a deal."
John Kelly, the president's chief of staff, told The New York Times what Trump actually said to China's president, referring to the players as "knuckleheads."
"Our president said to Xi, 'Do you know anything about these knuckleheads that got caught allegedly stealing?'" Mr. Kelly said. Unaware of the episode, the Chinese president dispatched an aide to get more information. "The president was saying, 'It's not too serious. We'd love to see this taken care of in an expeditious way,'" Mr. Kelly added.
It was reported by ChinaSportsInsider's Mark Dreyer that the charges were dropped. Trump's discussion with Xi came during his 12-day visit in Asia. Two of those days were spent in China.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott released a statement (and thanked Trump, the White House and the U.S. State Department after the players were released.
UCLA has not announced any punishment for Ball, Riley and Hill, and it is unknown what the extent of any suspension may be. In a case this high-profile, it could ultimately go either way in terms of how heavy-handed the school decides to be. For now, however, the UCLA three will just have to say their thanks to Trump and be glad they're back home.