UCLA players arrested in China suspended, thank Trump for his help

LiAngelo Ball and two teammates on UCLA’s basketball team have been suspended indefinitely after they shoplifted in China.

UCLA coach Steve Alford made the announcement after the three players publicly acknowledged the theft. “They will have to earn their way back,” Alford said

Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill apologized Wednesday after they were accused of shoplifting in China.

Riley, in a statement, said he was “embarrassed and ashamed” by his actions and thanked President Donald Trump and the US government for “taking the time to intervene on our behalf.”

Ball apologized for letting down his family and teammates, calling the incident a “stupid mistake” and said he had learned his lesson. “I would like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they’ve provided as well,” Ball said.

Hill, too, apologized to his teammates and family. “What I did was stupid. There’s no other way to put it,” he said. “Thank you to the United States government and President Trump for your efforts to bring us home,” Hill said.

Ball, Cody Riley, and Hill were allowed to leave China after the situation was “resolved to the satisfaction of the Chinese authorities,” said Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pacific-12 athletic conference, of which UCLA is a member.

The three were arrested last week while their team was in the city of Hangzhou ahead of the squad’s season opener in Shanghai. They were questioned on suspicion of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near their hotel.

The trio had stayed at the hotel, reportedly awaiting next steps in their case, while their teammates went to Shanghai, where UCLA defeated Georgia Tech 63-60 on Saturday. They stayed in China as their team returned to the United States over the weekend.

Scott did not say how the case was resolved. A conviction of grand larceny in China could result in years of prison. But Trump said Tuesday that he had asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help.

UCLA’s trip coincided with Trump’s two-day state visit to the Chinese capital, Beijing, as part of his 13-day trip to Asia. Trump told reporters that Xi had been helpful in working to resolve the case.

Scott acknowledged Trump, among others, in his statement.

“We are grateful for the role that our Chinese hosts played, and for the courtesy and professionalism of the local authorities,” Scott said. “We also want to acknowledge UCLA’s significant efforts on behalf of their student-athletes.

“Finally, we want to thank the President, the White House and the US State Department for their efforts towards resolution.”

Before the players’ release, Ball’s father, LaVar, had said in a statement on social media that the Chinese judicial process could take months.

LaVar Ball and his youngest son, LaMelo, were in Hong Kong on Tuesday evening to promote a pop-up shop for the family’s athletic apparel line, Big Baller Brand.

LaVar, LaMelo and Tina Ball — the family’s matriarch — all went to China to watch LiAngelo play his first game as a Bruin and promote the opening of a Big Baller Brand pop-up shop in Shanghai.

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