The situation between President Trump and the UCLA basketball players he helped has taken a turn for the worst, after one player’s father has made disparaging remarks about the president’s involvement.
UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were busted for shoplifting while in China, but were mercifully released and sent back to the United States after President Trump interceded on their behalf, discussing the issue with China’s President Xi Jinping while he was visiting Beijing.
According to UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, the players actually stole items from three different stores, including expensive sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near the hotel they were staying in. Police searched their bags the next morning and found the stolen goods, after the stores’ surveillance cameras caught the thefts.
After being set free by the Chinese government and returning home, the three players held a press conference Wednesday, in which they humbly apologized for their actions, and thanked President Trump for intervening on their behalf. Without intervention, they faced the possibility of lengthy prison sentences in China.
Friday, LiAngelo Ball’s father, LaVar Ball, made remarks to ESPN that downplayed the seriousness of his son’s shoplifting, as well as President Trump’s involvement in getting the players released.
“Who?” LaVar Ball told ESPN on Friday, when asked about Trump’s involvement in the matter. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”
Upon hearing that, President Trump lashed out on Twitter Sunday afternoon, stating, “Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!”
Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2017
President Trump’s social media director, Dan Scavino, also pounded LaVar Ball on Saturday, tweeting, “Wannabe @Lakers coach, BIG MOUTH @Lavarbigballerknows if it weren’t for President @realDonaldTrump, his son would be in China for a long, long, long time! #FACT.”
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@DanScavino) November 18, 2017
Coach Steve Alford said Wednesday that the three players are suspended indefinitely from the program. One condition of their release from China was that they had to surrender their passports.
LaVar Ball indicated to ESPN that it was all a “big deal out of nothing.”
“As long as my boy’s back here, I’m fine,” LaVar Ball told ESPN. “I’m happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, ‘They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.’ I’m from L.A. I’ve seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn’t define him. Now if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that’s a different thing.
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