UCLA basketball star LiAngelo Ball and two other players were arrested in China for shoplifting — a crime that carries a ten-year sentence there — and President Donald Trump intervened, asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to look into the case. Chinese authorities have since freed the players, but now, LiAngelo’s father, LaVar Ball, has dismissed the president’s efforts.
Freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill were arrested in Hangzhou, China, on November 7 for allegedly stealing merchandise from a Louis Vuitton store near the hotel the team was staying in outside of Shanghai. The team was in China to face Georgia Tech in its season opener last week.
Initially, the three were told they could have been forced to stay in China under house arrest for up to a month as Chinese authorities went through the legal process to indict them. The outlook worsened, too, when Chinese authorities said they had store surveillance of the three players stealing from several stores, not just the one Louis Vuitton store.
The three were also forced to remain in China even as their teammates flew back to the United States.
But the arrests also coincided with President Donald Trump’s state visit to China, and during the trip, he appealed to Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help resolve the case. Only a day later, LiAngelo and the other two players were allowed to board a plane and fly back home to California.
Many, such as ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser, noted that the three players have Trump to thank for their quick release in a case that would have seen a Chinese citizen detained for months before the legal process even began. Indeed, not long after they arrived safely home, the players all joined in a press conference to thank the president for his efforts.
But now, LiAngelo Ball’s father is saying he and his family have no reason to be grateful to the president.
The senior Ball spoke to ESPN’s Arash Markazi on Trump’s intercession, and instead of thanking the president, Ball attacked him.
“Who?” Ball said when Markazi raised the topic. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out,” he added.
Ball also insisted that the crime his son was accused of was no big deal.
“As long as my boy’s back here, I’m fine,” Ball said, continuing:
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.
“Everybody gets stuck on the negativity of some things, and they get stuck on them too long,” he concluded. “That’s not me. I handle what’s going on, and then we go from there.”
The fallout for the players did not end with their release from Chinese custody. All three players were suspended indefinitely from the UCLA team upon returning home.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.