In the world of spoiled athletes, it doesn’t get any worse than the three UCLA basketball players and the big-mouth father of one. LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill, and Cody Riley were arrested for allegedly shoplifting items, including sunglasses, from three stores while in China to play a game against Georgia Tech.
Such a charge can lead to severe jail time counted in years, not days. Luckily for the three disgraced players, President Trump was on a state visit to the country at the time. Had it not been for his role in speaking for them with the Chinese leader, one can only shudder to think what the three players' fate would have been.
The players apologized and thanked President Trump for his role in helping them return to the U.S., according to USA Today Sports. One of the player's father, LaVar Ball, is an outspoken former college and pro football athlete who at best can be called a hindrance to his basketball-playing sons both in the NBA and college.
Upon hearing that President Trump had helped out his jailed son gain his freedom, Ball downplayed the action. On Sunday, Trump promptly directed a message at LaVar Ball writing, “Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal," Trump wrote. "I should have left them in jail!"
Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday that he had spoken with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, about the situation on the players' behalf. The trio returned to the United States less than 24 hours later and apologized in a press conference.
The incident became a worldwide news story that embarrassed the State Department and UCLA. Strangely, the usually flamboyant LaVar Ball had remained silent. That all had changed Saturday when he was asked about Trump's involvement by ESPN.
"Who?" LaVar Ball answered. "What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out." While he was making this incredulous statement, LiAngelo Ball, Hill, and Riley have been indefinitely suspended from the team.
UCLA’s head basketball coach Steve Alford was quick to praise the president and thanked him by name at the Wednesday press conference. Trump then posted on Twitter on Thursday, telling the players "you're welcome" and "Have a great life.” among other things.
Yet the ungrateful LaVar Ball told ESPN that while he was pleased with how the situation in China was handled, he feels like it was overblown. Apparently he had been waiting for the players to leave Chinese air space before taking over the spotlight.
"Like I told him [Trump], '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," he told ESPN.
There were no further comments from the players. Unlike the pompous father of LiAngelo, the three boys most likely realize just how lucky they were that Trump was in the country at the time. It seems unlikely anymore will be heard from the suspended players who could do without the wild-mouthed, publicity-hungry Ball.
Dwight L. Schwab, Jr. is an award-winning national political and foreign affairs columnist and published author. He has spent over 35 years in the publishing industry. His long-running articles include many years at Examiner.com and currently Newsblaze.com. Dwight is an author of two highly acclaimed books, "Redistribution of Common Sense - Selected Commentaries on the Obama Administration 2009-2014" and "The Game Changer - America's Most Stunning Election in History." He is a native of Portland, Oregon, a journalism graduate from the University of Oregon, and a resident of the SF Bay Area. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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