LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Three UCLA freshmen basketball players arrested in China for shoplifting publicly apologized for their actions Wednesday, Nov. 15, and thanked everyone involved in helping to resolve the case so they could return home — including President Donald Trump.
UCLA head basketball coach Steve Alford said the players — LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley (who played at Sierra Canyon) — have been suspended indefinitely from the team while they go through the university’s disciplinary review process.
“They will not travel with the team, nor will they suit up for home games,” Alford said.
Alford said the players “will have to earn their way back” to the team, and they are “going to have to regain the trust of this athletic department and this university,” as well as the general public.
The three players all apologized for their actions, admitting that they stole items from stores near the team’s luxury hotel in Hangzous. All three individually thanked Trump, who spoke personally to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the players’ case.
“Thank you the U.S. government and President Trump for your efforts,” Hill said during a news conference at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump wrote on his Twitter page, “Do you think the
three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump,” he tweeted.
“They were headed for 10 years in jail!”
UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero noted that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly spoke to the three players on the phone over the weekend.
Ball, Hill and Riley returned to Los Angeles aboard a Delta Air Lines flight from Shanghai around 5 p.m. Tuesday.
They were greeted at Los Angeles International Airport by a throng of media on their return, but they walked out of the airport without comment and got into a waiting van.
The players were detained Nov. 7 on suspicion of shoplifting sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou. ESPN reported that Chinese authorities had surveillance video of the trio allegedly stealing merchandise from as many as three upscale shops.
They were placed under house arrest at the luxury hotel and were not permitted to play in UCLA’s season-opening game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai on No. 10.
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said Tuesday, Nov. 14, the players will to through the university’s disciplinary process.
“I want to be clear that we take seriously any violations of the law,” Block said. “We remain one of the world’s top academic institutions in large part because of our values and standards, which we work hard to infuse throughout our campus community.
“When members of the UCLA family fail to uphold these values, we review these incidents with fair and thorough processes,” he said.
“In this particular case, both Athletics and the Office of Student Conduct will review this incident and guide any action with respect to the involved students. Such proceedings are confidential, which limits the specific information that can be shared.”