The three UCLA basketball players arrested for shoplifting in China last week thanked President Donald Trump at Wednesday’s press conference for helping to secure their release while admitting to their crimes.
‘I would like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they’ve provided as well,’ said LiAngelo Ball, a freshman forward and the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball.
The gratitude was expressed after Trump tweeted earlier on Wednesday, ‘Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!’
On Tuesday, Trump indicated he had a conversation about the three players’ situation with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
The effort was successful as the three players returned home late Tuesday afternoon, where they may be disciplined by the school as a result of the international scandal. All three have been suspended indefinitely by the team.
Even if Trump did solicit the recognition, Ball and teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill all thanked the President for speaking to Xi about their predicament during Trump’s recent visit to China.
‘To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf,’ Riley said. ‘We really appreciate you helping us out.’
‘Thank you to the United States government and President Trump for your efforts to bring us home,’ Hill said.
The three were in China with their Bruins teammates last week to open the season against Georgia Tech on Friday. However, before they had a chance to play in the game, the trio was arrested after they were reportedly videotaped stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton location and two other stores at an upscale shopping center near the team’s hotel in Hangzhou.
Early reports suggested that the three freshmen might face up to 10 years and could spend months waiting for a trial in China.
‘I take full responsibilities for the mistake that I made, shoplifting. I know that this goes beyond me letting my school down but I let the entire country down,’ said Riley.
‘Before I thank everybody who worked so incredibly hard helping us returning home safely, I want to thank the Chinese government and the police for taking care of us. And to President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf.’
Ball told reporters he had not exercised his ‘best judgment’ and vowed never to repeat the ‘stupid decision’ to steal, also thanking Trump, as well as the Chinese police and UCLA.
‘This does not define who I am. My family raised me better than that and I am going to make myself a better person from here on out,’ he added.
‘I’m sorry for stealing from the stores in China,’ Ball continued. ‘I’ve learned my lesson from this big mistake and I’m a hundred percent sure I’ll never make a mistake like this again. It’s going to make a better person from here on out.’
Hill told reporters he wanted to be known for his love of basketball rather than ‘this dumb mistake.’
‘This incident has changed me in a way that I cannot describe. I have so much more respect from the people around me from coaches and staff and the fans of UCLA,’ he said.
UCLA head coach Steve Alford said the trio will not travel with the team or suit up for home games while they are suspended indefinitely.
Alford thanked ‘President Trump and his administration for their nonstop efforts’ in resolving the case.