Recently returned from a five-country Asian tour, President Trump credited himself for the extraordinary release of several UCLA basketball players from Chinese authorities. The players, including NBA star rookie Lonzo Ball’s brother, LiAngelo Ball, avoided severe punishment for shoplifting. Trump attributes the athletes’ release to his influence on Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The three players: LiAngelo, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill faced a legal process that could have taken months before even starting. The first signs of atypical treatment occurred when authorities granted the players bail shortly after their arrest. According to Jerome Cohen, the faculty director of New York University’s U.S. -Asia Law Institute:
“Normally, the Chinese do not give bail, certainly not this early in a case that they’re going to prosecute. …It usually is only given at the convenience of the police.”
While charges remain unknown, a felony conviction related to the value of the stolen items could have resulted in a 10-year jail sentence.
Trump asked Xi to aid the players during his visit to China, and all three players gained subsequent release. They arrived back in the U.S. on Tuesday.
That same day, Trump wondered if the UCLA players would thank him, and took to Twitter to express his desire for personal gratitude. He tweeted:
“Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”
In the apparent understanding of their crime’s severity and the unusual nature of their release, the players thanked Trump and China. Riley stated:
“To President Trump and the entire United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf.“
Despite agreement on their release, analysts remain divided on whether the players deserve further punishment. “They have already been punished,” says ESPN’s Max Kellerman. However, this opinion lacks unanimity, and some analysts support suspension.
While Trump helped the players escape legal repercussions, none are allowed to return to the basketball court. UCLA officials issued statements confirming the indefinite suspension of all three players involved in the shoplifting incident.
Featured Image Via YouTube Video.