The tension between President Donald Trump and LaVar Ball, the father of one of the UCLA basketball players release from China after getting arrested for shoplifting, increased with the president’s tweet on Sunday.
“I should have left them in jail!,” Trump shot back at Ball after he dismissed the president’s role in helping to release his son, LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley who were charged for stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near their hotel in Hangzhou.
The three UCLA freshmen returned to the United States on Tuesday, avoiding prosecution for shoplifting that could have resulted in up to 10 years in prison. Trump, while on a state visit to China, reportedly raised the issue with his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, asking for his help to resolve the issue. When Trump didn’t receive a pat on the back for their release, he shamed the athletes via a Twitter post, asking, “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump?” Ultimately, all three players expressed their gratitude during a press conference, ESPN reported.
In an interview with ESPN on Friday, LaVar Ball told the network that people “want to make it seem like he (Trump) helped me out.” It was reported that White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly had been in touch with the families, the UCLA coaching staff and Chinese authorities. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is believed to have briefed Trump about the case. LaVar Ball added that his son was accused of committing a minor offense, which does not “define” his son’s character—noting that he’s seen people commit worse crimes while growing up in Los Angeles.