LiAngelo Ball’s relationship with UCLA did not last very long, in fact it spanned all of one exhibition game and a brief trip to China. However, according to Ball, in one of his final acts as a Bruin, he followed the university’s instructions to thank President Trump for his release.
Three UCLA players were detained for shoplifting while traveling with the Bruins basketball team in China. Upon their return, the trio of players, LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill; held a press conference where they thanked President Trump for their release.
However, in an appearance on The Breakfast Club with his father LaVar, and his younger brother LaMelo, LiAngelo made it clear that thanking Trump was not the players idea. The idea to thank Trump came from UCLA.
Here is the relevant quote from USA Today:
They wanted to hear that, and he tweeted about it before my speech so I had to add it in there right before I gave it. My school wanted to hear it too. Before I went up there, it’s like, ‘You gotta thank him.’ I just threw him in there real quick before I gave my speech.
Ball was also asked if he would have thanked Trump, had he known he would eventually leave UCLA to play basketball in Lithuania. Ball said, “No. If they didn’t want me to do it. If they didn’t tell me to do it, it wouldn’t have been in there, to be honest.”
President Trump had tweeted, shortly before the press conference, asking whether the released players would thank him for helping to gain their release:
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
While LiAngelo Ball did thank Trump, he says, at the behest of his school, his father LaVar refused to thank the president. Citing his own “boots on the ground” as being responsible for winning his son’s release.