Trump on UCLA players: ‘I should have left them in jail’

President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that he should have left three UCLA players in a Chinese jail after the president was criticized by LaVar Ball, the father of one of the players. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI

Nov. 19 (UPI) — President Donald Trump said Sunday he should have left three UCLA basketball players detained for shoplifting in jail after one of the player’s fathers questioned his role in their release.

Trump criticized LaVar Ball, father of UCLA’s LiAngelo Ball, on Twitter for being unaccepting of his effort to negotiate the release of the three players with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I should have left them in jail!”

Ball responded “Who?” when asked about Trump’s involvement in negotiating the release of his son and his two teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill in an interview with ESPN.

“What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out,” Ball said of Trump.

The three players were questioned about allegedly stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou and later arrested and released on bail, while being required to remain at the team hotel until the legal process was resolved.

While on his five-nation Asia tour, Trump asked Xi to resolve the case for the three freshman players.

“Our president said to Xi, ‘Do you know anything about these knuckleheads that got caught allegedly stealing?” Trump’s Chief of Staff 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.”

After the players were released Trump questioned whether they would thank him, stating they had faced 10 years in jail.

All three players thanked Trump in a press conference upon returning to the United States and Trump later responded by warning of the “many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life.”

UCLA coach Steve Alford announced Wednesday that Ball, Riley and Hill have been suspended from the team indefinitely and will not take part in practice or games while the school performs a review of the situation.

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