Three UCLA freshmen basketball players arrested in China on suspicion of shoplifting were on their way back to Los Angeles Tuesday, with authorities announcing the criminal case against them has been resolved.
The players’ release followed President Donald Trump’s intervention. He said on his way to the United States after 12 days in Asia that Chinese President Xi Jinping was helping out in the case.
“President Xi has been terrific on that subject,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One, bound for Honolulu. “But that was not a good subject. That was not something that should have happened.”
Trump and Xi met Thursday in Beijing.
According to Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott, “the matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of the Chinese authorities.”
“We are all very pleased that these young men have been allowed to return home to their families and university,” Scott said.
UCLA confirmed that LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were returning home, and they are expected to make a statement to the media Wednesday at Pauley Pavilion, although they are not planning to take any questions. Basketball coach Steve Alford and Athletic Director Dan Guerrero are also expected to make statements at the 11 a.m. news conference.
There was no immediate indication on whether the players will face any punishment from the team or the university.
“I want to be clear that we take seriously any violations of the law,” UCLA Chancellor Gene 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.”
Ball, Riley and Hill were detained last Tuesday 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.
The players had been under house arrest at the luxury hotel. They were not permitted to play in UCLA’s season-opening game against Georgia Tech on Friday.
“What they did was unfortunate,” Trump said. “You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. They (the Chinese) do not play games.”
Scott, the Pac-12 commissioner, expressed thanks to Trump and Chinese authorities.
“We are grateful for the role that our Chinese hosts played, and for the courtesy and professionalism of the local authorities,” Scott said. “We also want to acknowledge UCLA’s significant efforts on behalf of their student- athletes. Finally, we want to thank the president, the White House and the U.S. State Department for their efforts towards resolution.”
The players are believed to be aboard a Delta Air Lines flight from Shanghai, due to arrive at Los Angeles International Airport at about 5pm.
–City News Service