President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he had discussed the situation of three UCLA men’s basketball players arrested for shoplifting in China with Chinese President Xi Jinping, expressing hope that the three would soon be able to return to the U.S.
“The basketball players, by the way — I know a lot of people are asking — I will tell you, when I heard about it two days ago, I had a great conversation with President Xi,” Trump said Tuesday. “What they did was unfortunate. You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. They do not play games.”
UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were arrested last week, accused of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near the team’s hotel. The Bruins had been in China for a game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai in which the three arrested players did not participate. Ball, Hill and Riley have remained in a hotel in China since being released on bail.
Beyond the president’s involvement, the UCLA shoplifting case has garnered additional attention because of the involvement of Ball, the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers star rookie Lonzo Ball. Their outspoken father, LaVar Ball, who has launched a sneaker and apparel company anchored in his sons’ basketball talent and stars in a reality show about the family that airs on Facebook, has said the situation “ain’t that big of a deal.”
Trump said Xi is helping work towards a resolution of the players’ legal situation and was “terrific” in their conversation on the subject. Asked if the three UCLA players will return home soon, Trump said “I hope so.”
“It’s a very, very rough situation with what happened to them,” Trump said. “President Xi has been terrific on that subject. But that was not a good subject. That was not something that should have happened.”