LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA men’s basketball players who had been arrested on shoplifting charges in China last week have been allowed to return home.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Ball—the younger brother of the Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball—Jalen Hill and Cody Riley all checked in for a Los Angeles-bound flight at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport on Tuesday, just hours after President Donald Trump was reported to have personally asked that Chinese President Xi Jinping help resolve the case.
The three players were detained by local police in Hangzhou after being accused of stealing from a Louis Vuitton store located near the hotel where their team was staying ahead of Friday’s season-opening game against Georgia Tech. The college players were ultimately released on bail but were ordered to stay at the hotel until the legal process was completed.
However, at the end of Trump’s extensive Asia trip, the president confirmed to reporters that he had asked his Chinese counterpart for assistance. Trump called the incident “unfortunate,” WSJ notes, but expressed gratitude to the Chinese president.
“President Xi has been terrific on that subject,” Trump said, according to the news site.
In statements about the incident, Trump appeared to scold the players for their behavior in a foreign country.
“You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. They do not play games,” he said, presumably referring to the Chinese judicial system.
Nonetheless, WSJ reports that legal experts in China were skeptical as to whether the players would face any harsh repercussions.
The decision of whether to prosecute a crime becomes more complicated when foreigners are involved, say lawyers. Throw in celebrity athletes and comments from a U.S. president, they say, and any decisions get especially weighty.
“Nobody wants to make a decision because everyone’s watching,” said Fu Hualing, associate dean at the University of Hong Kong’s law school.
Of course, President Twitter Fingers, not one to pass up an opportunity to preen, wanted to know when he would be thanked for saving the players from “10 years in jail.”
And did he just refer to himself in the third person?
Read more at the Wall Street Journal.