The three UCLA freshmen who were caught shoplifting in China last week have thanked President Donald Trump for his assistance in freeing them after he publicly wondered whether they’d be grateful.
The three students were arrested for shoplifting sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the hotel where the team was staying, which escalated into an international incident that eventually involved President Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. Trump highlighted the arrests while on his two-day state tour in Beijing, where he had arrived a day after the athletes were accused of stealing, according to the Wall Street Journal.
On Tuesday, Trump publicly acknowledged that he had to personally ask President Xi for his assistance in resolving the case of three UCLA men’s basketball players.
On Wednesday, President Trump said on that the three were on course for a lengthy prison term, in a tweet where he addressed himself as ‘President Trump’ and wondered if he would be thanked.
John Kelly, White House chief of staff, detailed how Trump intervened during his Asian tour.
“Our president said to [Chinese President] Xi, ‘Do you know anything about these knuckleheads that got caught allegedly stealing?'” John Kelly told the New York Times.
“The president was saying, ‘It’s not too serious. We’d love to see this taken care of in an expeditious way.'”
Kelly confirmed that China agreed to reduce the charges, which led to the release of the players.
Guard LiAngelo Ball (brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie guard Lonzo Ball), and forwards Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, admitted to the theft while in China, and have been temporarily suspended by UCLA. The US athletes apologized for their misdemeanours at a press conference, where all three took responsibility for their actions, according to the WSJ.
Both Cody Riley and LiAngelo Ball thanked Trump explicitly for his assistance and intervention. Jalen Hill offered his thanks without specifically mentioning the president.
“Thank you to the United States government for your efforts to bring us home,” he said.