Shoplifting Basketball Players Suspended by UCLA after China Exit

By Isabel Chan, November 16, 2017

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Three UCLA basketball players who were caught shoplifting in China and released from the country with the help of Donald Trump apologized at a press conference at the university on Wednesday. 

Just days before the Pac-12 China game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai, freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were arrested in Hangzhou on Tuesday, November 7 under suspicion of shoplifting from a mall 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.

The trio were finally allowed to leave China on Tuesday after President Trump personally lobbied Chinese President Xi Jinping for their release during his visit to Beijing last week. 

According to Mark Dreyer of ChinaSportsInsider.com, Chinese authorities dropped all charges and the three were not officially deported, which allowed them to walk away from the incident with a clean record.

The Tweeter in Chief responded to the athletes' return, posting: "Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!"

Trump UCLA basketball

According to the AP, the three were detained for shoplifting from three high-end shops. Initial reports suggested they had been caught for stealing from a Louis Vuitton store. 

Because of their actions, UCLA coach Steve Alford announced at the press conference that they'd be suspended indefinitely. Said Alford:

"These are good young men who have exercised an inexcusable lapse of judgment and now they have to live with that. They let a lot people down in the process. I'm confident that they have already begun to use this experience as a life lesson."

At the news conference, Ball, Hill and Riley sequentially took turns confessing and apologizing to the shoplifting.

First to apologize, Riley expressed his gratitude to the Pac-12 Conference, some UCLA administrators and his teammates. "You guys mean so much to me," Riley said. "I'm sorry for letting you down." 

Riley also thanked both Chinese police and the government for taking care of them, as well as the US government for helping sort out the situation. "To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf. We really appreciate you helping us out."

"I'm sorry for stealing from the stores in China," said Ball, the younger brother of NBA star Lonzo Ball and subject of the reality show Ball in the Family along with his father, outspoken basketball sneaker entrepreneur LaVar Ball.

"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," he added. "It's going to make me a better person from here on out."

Hill said: "I'm sorry for shoplifting. What I did was stupid. I don't want to be known for this dumb mistake. I hope you can forgive my stupid, childish actions."

The players returned to a swarm of journalists in LA
The players arrived in Los Angeles yesterday, where they were subsequently swarmed by the press

During their suspension, the three will be forbidden to suit up, practice or travel with the UCLA basketball team. Alford did not specify the duration of the suspension and added that the players would have to earn their way back onto the team. 

The university is currently continuing to sort out last week's shoplifting incident.

"We will come to a resolution in short order," said UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero.

[Images via China Daily, CBS, Twitter]

Additional writing by Bridget O'Donnell

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