By: Kendall Gregory
Assistant Sports Editor
On Nov. 7, three men’s basketball players from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) were arrested in Hangzhou, China on shoplifting charges. Freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hall were suspected and arrested the morning after the incident.
The UCLA and the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) men’s basketball teams were in China to play their season opener in Shanghai on Nov. 10. UCLA defeated Georgia Tech 63-60.
On Nov. 6, the players and coaches were given a tour of Alibaba Group Holding Limited, an e-commerce company and the sponsor of the game between the two teams.
After the tour, players and coaches returned to their hotel and were given 90 minutes to explore the city on their own. It was at this time that Ball, Riley and Hall shoplifted from a mall near their hotel.
The following morning, the UCLA men were questioned by police and then taken into custody for further questioning. All three men were released on the morning of Nov. 8 on bail and the agreement to give up their passports and adhere to travel restrictions.
The athletes would not travel with the rest of their team to Shanghai for the game.
“I’d like to start off by saying sorry for stealing from the store in China,” said Ball. “I didn’t exercise my best judgment, and I was wrong for that.”
Ball is the son of former professional basketball player LaVar Ball and the brother of current National Basketball Association (NBA) rookie Lonzo Ball.
The players were given permission to leave China on Nov. 14 and arrived back in Los Angeles on the same day.
According to the Associated Press, President Donald Trump reached out to the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, in regards to letting the three men return to the United States.
Following their release, Trump took to Twitter.
“Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail,” said Trump in a tweet.
China’s laws regarding shoplifting are among the strictest in the world and in result can carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
All three players, coach Steve Alford, and Athletic Director Dan Guerrero have reportedly personally thanked Trump.
Trump was displeased when Ball’s father seemed ungrateful for what Trump did to get his son out of jail.
He then took to Twitter and said he should have left Ball and the two other players in jail.
“That’s on your mind, that a father didn’t say ‘Thank you’? And you’re the head of the U.S.?” said LaVar Ball. “There are a lot of other things going on. Let him do his political affairs and let me handle my son.”
The players have been suspended indefinitely and are not allowed to participate in team workouts, practices, suit up, be on the bench during home games or travel with the team.
“To the three UCLA basketball players I say: You’re welcome, go out and give a big thank you to President Xi Jinping of China who made your release possible and, HAVE A GREAT LIFE! Be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life,” said Trump in a tweet.
UCLA is currently 5-1, with their only loss coming from Creighton University, and is ranked 23rd in the country.
Associated Press contributed to this article.