The three UCLA college basketball players arrested for shoplifting last week left China Tuesday evening, the Wall Street Journal reports. President Donald Trump directly intervened in their return, personally lobbying Chinese President Xi Jinping for their release.
Freshmen Bruins players LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were spotted at Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) checking into a Los Angeles-bound Delta flight departing at approximately 9pm yesterday, according to the WSJ.
Upon arrival in California, Ball, Riley and Hill were swarmed by reporters at LAX, though they didn't answer any questions from the press.
The players arrive in LA
"They're working on it right now," Trump told reporters in Manila on Tuesday, just hours before the trio were spotted boarding their flight in Shanghai. He added that Xi had "been terrific" in helping resolve the case.
Trump and Xi met in Beijing last week.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott also confirmed the return, saying that the issue had been "resolved to the satisfaction of the Chinese authorities."
It is unclear what punishment the trio face from the school, though a press conference will be held at UCLA tomorrow.
The rest of the team returned to the United States on Sunday via a flight bound for Los Angeles.
Just days before the Pac-12 China game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai, Ball, Riley and Hill were arrested in Hangzhou on Tuesday, November 7 under suspicion of shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team's hotel. None of them were present during the Bruins' 63-60 win over the Yellow Jackets at Baoshan Sports Center on Saturday, November 11.
UCLA defeated Georgia Tech 63-60 during the men's college basketball game in Shanghai this weekend
According to ESPN, the players were released on bail on the morning of Wednesday, November 8 and were under house arrest in Hangzhou.
As Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel noted last week, the athletes potentially faced up to 10 years in Chinese prison. According to Chinese law, “robbing public or private property using force, coercion, or other methods" is punishable by between three and 10 years in prison.
Alibaba, the game's presenting sponsor, was also said to be assisting the investigation. The two teams were touring the company's headquarters in Hangzhou last week.
Commenting on the incident before the game on Saturday, Alibaba executive vice chairman and co-founder Joseph Tsai said:
"Every young person makes mistakes, but the key point is how they will handle it after making the mistake. I think sometimes things can be very complicated, and the last couple of days I've seen firsthand professionalism on all sides."
One of the players, Ball, is the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers star, Lonzo Ball. He's also the son of outspoken basketball sneaker entrepreneur LaVar Ball. The family is the subject of the reality show Ball in the Family, which airs on Facebook.
LaMelo, Lonzo, LaVar and LiAngelo Ball
LaVar Ball was reportedly planning on addressing the media from his Shanghai hotel last week, though the press conference was later postponed; Ball was also advised by his council not to speak "due to the legal nature of the matter," according to ESPN senior writer Arash Markazi.
According to ESPN, the Ball family was filming the show while in Shanghai. They were scheduled to stay in China until Sunday before traveling to Hong Kong for a pop-up event for the shoe brand, Big Baller Brand (BBB).