UCLA players arrested in China apologize and are suspended
Ray Sanchez, CNN
(CNN) — LiAngelo Ball and two of his UCLA basketball teammates publicly apologized Wednesday for shoplifting during a team trip to China.
After Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill read statements acknowledging their role in an international incident that prompted President Donald Trump to take credit for intervening on their behalf, UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford announced that all three had been suspended indefinitely.
“They will have to earn their way back,” Alford said.
Riley, in his statement, said he was embarrassed and ashamed “for disappointing my family, my teammates, my coaches, and the entire UCLA community.”
He said he took “full responsibility for the mistake that I’ve made: shoplifting,” and that his actions went “beyond me letting my school down, but I’ve let my country down.”
“To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf,” he added. “We really appreciate you helping us out.”
Earlier in the day, Trump had tweeted: “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”
Ball apologized to his family and teammates, saying he made a mistake and “learned my lesson.”
“I’d like to start off by saying sorry for stealing from the stores in China,” he said. “I’m a young man, but it’s not an excuse for making a really stupid decision.”
Hill, too, apologized to his teammates and family.
“What I did was stupid. There’s no other way to put it,” he said.
Shoplifted from three stores
Ball, Riley and Hill were allowed to leave China after the situation was “resolved to the satisfaction of the Chinese authorities,” said Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pac-12 athletic conference, of which UCLA is a member.
The three were arrested last week while their team was in the city of Hangzhou ahead of the squad’s season opener in Shanghai. They were questioned on suspicion of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near their hotel.
Athletic Director Dan Guerrero confirmed the trio shoplifted from three stores near their hotel on Monday night. The three were identified the next morning after police searched their bags and found the stolen items
The three had stayed at the hotel, reportedly awaiting next steps in their case, while their teammates went to Shanghai, where UCLA defeated Georgia Tech 63-60 on Saturday. They stayed in China as their team returned to the United States over the weekend.
School officials said the charges were withdrawn by Chinese authorities after the players admitted guilt. A conviction of grand larceny in China could result in years of prison. But Trump said Tuesday that he had asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help.
UCLA’s trip coincided with Trump’s two-day state visit to the Chinese capital, Beijing, as part of his 13-day trip to Asia. Trump told reporters that Xi had been helpful in working to resolve the case.
Scott acknowledged Trump, among others, in his statement.
“We are grateful for the role that our Chinese hosts played, and for the courtesy and professionalism of the local authorities,” Scott said. “We also want to acknowledge UCLA’s significant efforts on behalf of their student athletes.
“Finally, we want to thank the President, the White House and the US State Department for their efforts towards resolution.”
Trump’s request was first reported by the Washington Post.
They were on a cultural and sports exchange
The Bruins, ranked 23rd nationally, will play a home game Wednesday night against Central Arkansas.
Days before the game in Shanghai, the Bruins were in Hangzhou to visit the headquarters of Alibaba, the e-commerce giant that sponsored Saturday’s contest.
The game was the culmination of a weeklong cultural and sports exchange involving the student athletes.
Before the players’ release, LiAngelo Ball’s father, LaVar, had said in a statement on social media that the Chinese judicial process could take months.
LaVar Ball and his youngest son, LaMelo, were in Hong Kong on Tuesday evening to promote a pop-up shop for the family’s athletic apparel line, Big Baller Brand.
LaVar, LaMelo and Tina Ball — the family’s matriarch — all went to China to watch LiAngelo play his first game as a Bruin and promote the opening of a Big Baller Brand pop-up shop in Shanghai.