UCLA basketball players Cody Riley, LiAngelo Ball, and Jalen Hill speak at a press conference at UCLA after flying back from China where they were detained on suspicion of shoplifting.Thomson Reuters
- President Donald Trump said the UCLA basketball players released from China should thank President Xi Jinping.
- Trump likes to play up his friendly relationship with Xi, and has also portrayed athletes as ungrateful in the past.
- One of the detained players was LiAngelo Ball, the younger brother of NBA star Lonzo Ball.
President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday morning a response to the college basketball players who thanked him for his involvement in China releasing them from custody after they had been detained for shoplifting.
“To the three UCLA basketball players I say: You’re welcome, go out and give a big Thank You to President Xi Jinping of China who made… your release possible and, HAVE A GREAT LIFE! Be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!” tweeted Trump.
Trump’s tweets followed a press conference on Wednesday where the three freshman college basketball players apologized for their poor judgment and addressed the incident publicly for the first time.
The players thanked many people, including the Chinese government.
“I would also like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help they provided as well,” said LiAngelo Ball, the younger brother of the NBA star Lonzo Ball.
Chinese authorities charged the freshmen with shoplifting from three stores, which can carry a heavy penalty in China.
Trump has criticized athletes for kneeling during the national anthem, and has been criticized for portraying the athletes as ungrateful and the anthem and flag as unassailable. Trump often touts his friendship with Xi, and it appears he wanted the freshmen to thank the Chinese president by name as well.
Trump and Xi discussed the detention of the players during Trump’s trip to Asia in early November. China released the freshman shortly after. The players are now suspended from playing indefinitely.