LiAngelo Ball and his UCLA teammates owe a debut of gratitude to the President of the United States, apparently.
Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were freed and allowed to return to the U.S. on Tuesday, a week after they were arrested for allegedly shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store while the Bruins were in China for their season opener. The three players reportedly faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted, but after Donald Trump intervened, the charges ultimately were reduced to the equivalent of misdemeanors, according to The New York Times.
As you might expect, the president is quite proud of his role in the peaceful resolution, and he let the world know Wednesday morning in his own unique way.
Is this too aggressive? Maybe. But it appears Trump’s conversation with Chinese president Xi Jinping really was an important factor in securing the players’ releases, according to his chief of staff, John Kelly.
“Our president said to Xi, ‘Do you know anything about these knuckleheads that got caught allegedly stealing?’ ” Kelly said Tuesday, via the Times. “The president was saying, ‘It’s not too serious. We’d love to see this taken care of in an expeditious way.’ ”
While the players’ plight certainly was a big story in the U.S., Xi was unaware of the incident before dispatching an aide to get more information, per Kelly.
It’s worth noting that while Ball, Hill and Davis apparently have yet to thank Trump directly, they were quite remorseful when they spoke to Kelly on the phone.
“To say the least, they were very apologetic,” Kelly said. “They were just profuse in their apologies for embarrassing the country and embarrassing the team.”
Kelly reportedly did not ask the players whether they actually stole the items they were accused of taking. There’s still no word on what kind of punishment — if any — UCLA will levy on the players.