President Donald Trump and the father of one of the UCLA basketball players caught shoplifting in China have become engaged in a so-called war of words.
Last week LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA players, Cody Riley and Jaden Hill, were detained in Shanghai after an incident that involved stealing a pair of sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store. The incident coincided with Trump’s Asia trip, and he brought the issue up with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Here’s how the fallout unfolded.
Trump made it clear that he wanted recognition for his help in securing the release of the players, dropping a
not-so-subtle hint on Twitter.
“Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!” he wrote on Twitter.
During a news conference later that day, the three players admitted to shoplifting and each thanked Trump for his assistance in the matter.
Trump then responded to the players in a series of tweets the following day.
“To the three UCLA basketball players I say: You’re welcome, go out and give a big Thank You to President Xi Jinping of China who made your release possible and, HAVE A GREAT LIFE! Be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!” he wrote in two tweets.
LiAngelo Ball’s father, LaVar Ball, was interviewed by ESPN and some interpreted his remarks as an attempt to downplay Trump’s role in his son’s release.
When asked about Trump’s involvement, LaVar Ball said, “Who?”
“What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out,” he said.
He went on, “As long as my boy’s back here, I’m fine. I’m happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, ‘They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.’ I’m from LA. I’ve seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn’t define him. Now if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that’s a different thing. Everybody gets stuck on the negativity of some things and they get stuck on them too long. That’s not me. I handle what’s going on and then we go from there.”
LaVar Ball has gained national attention for some outlandish claims that he has made in the past, including one that made earlier this year when he said that he could have beaten NBA legend Michael Jordan back in the day (Ball played basketball in college).
Those comments clearly struck a chord with Trump.
“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. I should have left them in jail!” Trump wrote in a tweet.
In another tweet he wrote, “Shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be (5-10 years in jail), but not to father LaVar. Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful!”