Trump in­ter­vened for play­ers

Shoplift­ing mat­ter re­solved in China af­ter Trump’s in­ter­ven­tion

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY SI­MON DENYER, DAVID NAKA­MURA AND TIM BONTEMPS

3 UCLA men’s bas­ket­ball play­ers ac­cused of shoplift­ing are on their way home from China.

bei­jing — Three UCLA men’s bas­ket­ball play­ers ar­rested for shoplift­ing in China re­turned to the United States on Tues­day, af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump per­son­ally in­ter­vened in the case with his Chi­nese coun­ter­part, Xi Jin­ping.

Fresh­men LiAn­gelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Ri­ley ar­rived at Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Air­port late Tues­day af­ter­noon af­ter a 12-hour flight from Shang­hai.

In a state­ment, Pa­cific-12 Com­mis­sioner Larry Scott said the mat­ter “has been re­solved to the sat­is­fac­tion of the Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties.”

“We are all very pleased that these young men have been al­lowed to re­turn home to their fam­i­lies and univer­sity,” Scott said in the state­ment.

“We are grate­ful for the role that our Chi­nese hosts played, and for the courtesy and pro­fes­sional-

of the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. 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 U.S. State Depart­ment for their ef­forts to­wards res­o­lu­tion.”

Ear­lier, Trump ac­knowl­edged that he had asked the Chi­nese leader to help re­solve the case of the three play­ers who were ar­rested for shoplift­ing while in Hangzhou for a tour­na­ment last week.

“The bas­ket­ball play­ers, by the way — I know a lot of peo­ple are ask­ing — I will tell you, when I heard about it two days ago, I had a great con­ver­sa­tion with Pres­i­dent Xi,” Trump said af­ter board­ing Air Force One in Manila to re­turn to the United States at the con­clu­sion of a 12-day trip through Asia. “What they did was un­for­tu­nate. You know, you’re talk­ing about very long prison sen­tences. [ The Chi­nese] do not play games.

“[Xi] was ter­rific, and they’re work­ing on it right now. And hope­fully ev­ery­thing is go­ing to work out. And I know they’re very grate­ful be­cause they were told ex­actly what hap­pened.”

When asked specif­i­cally whether Xi was help­ing to re­solve the mat­ter, Trump said, “Yes, he is. And he’s been ter­rific. Pres­i­dent Xi has been ter­rific on that sub­ject.

“But that was not a good sub­ject. That was not some­thing that should have hap­pened.”

Trump raised the ar­rests dur­ing a two-day state visit to Bei­jing, ar­riv­ing af­ter the three fresh­man play­ers were ac­cused last week of steal­ing sun­glasses from a Louis Vuit­ton store next to the team’s ho­tel. Ball, brother of Los An­ge­les Lak­ers rookie guard Lonzo Ball, and for­wards Ri­ley and Hill did not play in the team’s vic­tory over Georgia Tech on Satur­day in Shang­hai.

The sun­glasses in the Louis Vuit­ton store in Hangzhou are priced at or about 4,900 yuan ($750). Ac­cord­ing to Chi­nese law, any­one steal­ing goods worth be­tween 4,000 and 7,000 yuan faces be­tween one and two years in jail, al­though the sen­tence can be mit­i­gated if they con­fess, show re­morse and pay com­pen­sa­tion.

That the three es­caped so lightly can only be at­trib­uted to the fact they are high-pro­file for­eign­ers, who could com­mand sup­port from the pres­i­dents of the United States and China, as well as Alibaism ba, the in­flu­en­tial e-com­merce gi­ant that spon­sored UCLA’s game in Shang­hai.

The State Depart­ment typ­i­cally takes the lead on cases in­volv­ing U.S. cit­i­zens who are ar­rested abroad, and the U.S. Em­bassy in Bei­jing was aware of the case, of­fi­cials said. UCLA is one of the top bas­ket­ball pro­grams in the coun­try, and the Ball fam­ily — in­clud­ing LiAn­gelo’s out­spo­ken fa­ther, LaVar Ball — has be­come well-known in the sports world.

Trump spent most of two days with Xi, a stay that in­cluded a tour of the For­bid­den City, a state din­ner and meet­ings. The two lead­ers dis­cussed North Korea’s nu­clear threat, bi­lat­eral trade re­la­tions and a host of other is­sues. They made no pre­vi­ous pub­lic men­tion of the UCLA case.

With the play­ers re­turn­ing home af­ter spend­ing the past week at a lux­ury ho­tel in Hangzhou, the fo­cus now shifts to what will hap­pen next. All three play­ers, as well as UCLA Coach Steve Al­ford and Ath­letic Di­rec­tor Dan Guer­rero, will pro­vide state­ments to the me­dia Wed­nes­day morn­ing, though they will not an­swer ques­tions.

When asked specif­i­cally whether the topic of any ad­di­tional pun­ish­ment from the school over the in­ci­dent would be dis­cussed, a spokesper­son for the pro­gram said, “Many of these ques­tions will be an­swered Wed­nes­day, as best as they can at this time, in the remarks from the afore­men­tioned in­di­vid­u­als.”

UCLA beat Georgia Tech, 6360, in Shang­hai on Fri­day in its open­ing game with­out the three fresh­men. De­spite LiAn­gelo Ball’s older brother be­ing se­lected No. 2 over­all in June’s NBA draft by the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers, the fam­ily’s mid­dle son was a three-star prospect and isn’t considered to be a fu­ture NBA tal­ent. Hill and Ri­ley were both fourstar prospects.

UCLA’s next game is Wed­nes­day night, when the Bru­ins will host Cen­tral Arkansas. The rest of Ball’s fam­ily re­mains in Hong Kong, where the sec­ond of two pop-up stores for its shoe and ap­parel brand, Big Baller Brand, is set to open Tues­day.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHOTOS

UCLA play­ers LiAn­gelo Ball, left, Cody Ri­ley and Jalen Hill (not shown) were ac­cused of steal­ing sun­glasses from a store in China.

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