Three UCLA basketball players who were arrested last week for allegedly trying to steal sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton boutique in Hangzhou were released and flew back home Tuesday after President Donald Trump intervened on their behalf.
“UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were seen late Tuesday at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport checking into a Delta flight bound for Los Angeles, airline staff said,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
Note that time in Chinese runs roughly 12 hours ahead of time in the United States, meaning it was Tuesday morning in the U.S. when the boys departed.
This stunning turnaround occurred shortly after Trump revealed that he had discussed the three boys’ situation with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his trip to China a couple days earlier.
“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,” he said early Tuesday morning, according to Politico.
“What they did was unfortunate,” he added. “You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. They do not play games.”
While preparing for his return home Monday after a nearly two-week trip in Asia, the president said at the time that his administration was “working on it.”
“Hopefully everything is going to work out,” he added.
Very luckily for the three kids, it did. I wrote “very luckily” because Trump hadn’t been kidding about the Chinese not playing games.
The players had originally been facing time in prison, as noted last week by Yahoo News: “If standard practices are applied, the three UCLA basketball players … arrested Tuesday in mainland China under suspicion of shoplifting face between 3 and 10 years in prison if convicted.”
Yahoo News likewise noted that most defendants must wait 30 to 37 days before even being officially indicted. Moreover, Chinese prosecutors enjoy a 99.2 percent conviction rate.
Had Trump not intervened, only God knows what might have happened.
That said, I wonder whether former President Barack Obama would have intervened had this occurred during his presidency. Given how he handled the conviction and imprisonment of Otto Warmbier last year by North Korea, I suspect not.
Warmbier was finally released and sent home this past summer — after Trump took office in January, I might add — but in a comatose state. He died shortly after returning to the states.
UCL basketball players – Ball, Hill and Riley, certainly wouldn’t have been as mistreated had they been convicted by the Chinese, but still … I’m glad they’re home, and I’m sure their parents and fans are as well.
These three freshmen on the UCLA men’s basketball team were accused of shoplifting in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.
ESPN, citing a source with firsthand knowledge, reported Wednesday that LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were released on bail after being questioned about stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near the team hotel. ESPN’s LA-based reporter Arash Markazi is covering the team from China.
At the time of the event, Ball’s father, LaVar, who was in China, said in a statement on social media that the process “could take … months.”
“Ball, Riley and Hill are being required by Hangzhou police to remain at their hotel until the legal process is over, which could take days, weeks or even months,” he said. “The hope is obviously sooner rather than later.”
Had they been convicted of grand larceny, the players could have faced a prison sentence of between 3 and 10 years, according to Chinese criminal law.
UCLA was in China for a week-long visit and was scheduled to open its season in Shanghai on Saturday against Georgia Tech. When asked about the arrests at a news conference, UCLA Coach Steve Alford said the players in question would not play in Saturday’s game.
LiAngelo Ball is a younger brother of former UCLA star Lonzo Ball, now a rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers.
In a statement on Weibo earlier Wednesday, LaVar Ball called the incident “unfortunate to both the Ball family and UCLA.”
UCLA, one of the United States’ premier college basketball programs, previously said the university was cooperating fully with local authorities.
“We are aware of the matter involving UCLA student-athletes in Hangzhou, China and we are gathering more information,” UCLA Associate Director of Athletic Communications Alex Timiraos said in a statement.
Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pacific 12 Conference, of which UCLA is a member, said in a statement that the student-athletes “were involved in a situation” and were cooperating with local authorities.
“We are very disappointed by any situation that detracts from the positive student-athlete educational and cultural experience that this week is about,” the statement said. “Whether in the United States or abroad, we expect our student-athletes to uphold the highest standards.”
No kidding! What made these morons think just because they are NCAA basketball players, that they didn’t have to pay for sunglasses in a foreign country? Idiots! They should at least write a nice ‘thank you’ note to President Trump for his intervention. This could have ended much worse!
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