President Donald J. Trump scored another victory. After he personally made an appeal for the release of three young University of California, Los Angeles, basketball players detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting, they were released.
Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to intervene in the case just days before the young men–LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill–who were facing lengthy prison sentences, arrived back in the United States on Tuesday.
On Nov. 7, the three basketball players were detained by police in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, accused of shoplifting. They were subsequently held and did not return to America with the team on Saturday.
“What they did was unfortunate,” Trump said of the incident while in Manila (see video below). He had raised the topic of the players with Xi at a dinner held during his state visit to Beijing.
According to a senior White House official, that discussion paved the way for the players, who were given relatively light treatment due to the president’s intervention.
“It’s in large part because the president brought it up,” the official told Reuters, regarding the release of the UCLA players.
Trump told reporters that the trio could have faced long prison sentences and that Xi’s response to his appeal was “terrific.”
The trio of players landed at Los Angeles International Airport to a gaggle of reporters on Tuesday evening (videos below). Heads bowed, they declined to issue statements, ignoring questions such as, “Are you guys Donald Trump supporters now?”
On Wednesday morning, President Trump tweeted a message about the trio’s release (see below). It read: “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”
The UCLA team was in China for a Saturday game in Shanghai against Georgia Tech. While in Hangzhou during the early part of the week, to visit game sponsor Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the three freshmen were held for questioning by police over alleged shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store.
The players never went to court over the allegations, as their release was secured prior to proceedings. That is another boon for the accused shoplifters; since the matter did not occur on the court, UCLA will decide if the players will be punished, according to Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.
On Tuesday, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement that the incident was under review by the Athletics Department and Office of Student Conduct, which will determine any potential discipline.
Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2017