During a visit to China last week, UCLA freshman basketball players LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill were detained on suspicion of shoplifting. However, President Donald Trump happened to be in the country at the same time, and he placed a quick call to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Now, we are just learning a bit about what was discussed during the course of their conversation, and it speaks volumes about President Trump versus his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.
President Trump was in the midst of his twelve-day trip throughout Asia when Ball, Riley, and Hill were detained. Even though his schedule was packed with speeches, diplomatic meetings, and various visits with heads of state, Trump made time to ensure that the basketball players were not abandoned in China.
The players were questioned last week about allegedly stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou, where the Bruins had been staying before leaving for Shanghai to face Georgia Tech on Saturday. They were released on bail early Wednesday morning and had been staying at a lakeside hotel in Hangzhou since then.
A source told ESPN’s Arash Markazi that there is surveillance footage of the players shoplifting from three stores inside a high-end shopping center, which houses Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Salvatore Ferragamo stores. [Source: ESPN]
UCLA returned to the United States on Saturday without the three freshmen, with UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block commenting, “I want to be clear that we take seriously any violations of the law. We remain one of the world’s top academic institutions in large part because of our values and standards, which we work hard to infuse throughout our campus community,” Block continued.
“When members of the UCLA family fail to uphold these values, we review these incidents with fair and thorough processes,” added Block, according to CNN. “In this particular case, both Athletics and the Office of Student Conduct will review this incident and guide any action with respect to the involved students.”
While the fates of the three students remain in question, they are headed back to the United States and are scheduled to arrive later Tuesday in Los Angeles. The players were seen checking into a Los Angeles-bound Delta flight at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport, thanks to President Trump.
The players’ return came hours after the president said that he was hopeful that they would be allowed to return home after he had a long conversation with China’s President Xi Jinping. “They’re working on it right now,” Trump told reporters in the Philippines as he prepared to return to Washington. “He’s been terrific,” Trump said, in an apparent reference to Xi, “But it was not a good subject. That was not something that should have happened.”
Ball, Riley, Hill, UCLA coach Steve Alford, and athletic director Dan Guerrero will hold a news conference on Wednesday, the same day which UCLA plays its home opener against Central Arkansas. At that time, we will likely learn more surrounding the detainment of the players in China.
Meanwhile, these college basketballers ought to thank their lucky stars that Donald Trump is in office. Unlike his presidential predecessor, this Commander-in-Chief doesn’t leave American citizens to rot in foreign countries. Had Barack Obama still been in the Oval Office, Ball, Riley, and Hill wouldn’t likely still be in China right now.