Trump prods basketball players released in China to thank him | News | DW | 15.11.2017
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Trump prods basketball players released in China to thank him

Three UCLA freshmen were freed from detention in China after the president interceded on their behalf. They were being held on shoplifting charges after stealing from a high end boutique.

US President Donald Trump pushed three college basketball players to publicly thank him on Thursday for securing their release from detention in China. The UCLA freshmen were being held on shoplifting charges since an incident in the city of Hangzhou last week.

"Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!" the president wrote on Twitter.

Students LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley returned to Los Angeles on Tuesday, one week after they were detained for allegedly stealing from a Louis Vuitton store. The trio had traveled to China with their basketball team to play a game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai.

Trump interceded on their behalf when he met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing this week. They were released after paying a $2,200 bail.

LiAngelo Ball is the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball. Their father, LaVar Ball, is a former professional football player and the owner of athletic wear firm Big Baller Brand.

'I let my entire country down'

In a press conference a few hours after Trump's comments, the three men held a press conference in which they apologized to China for shoplifting and thanked President Trump for raising their case with Jinping.

"I take full responsibility for the mistakes I have made, shoplifting," Riley said. “I know that this goes beyond me letting my school down. I let the entire country down."

Their coach, Steve Alford, said he was "extremely disappointed in their actions," and added that the three had been suspended from the UCLA basketball team indefinitely.

Trump has had an uneasy relationship with many professional athletes after criticizing police brutality protestors in the NFL and NBA, including telling the champion Golden State Warriors after team captain Steph Curry said he would boycott the traditional White House visit.

es/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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