TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -US President Donald Trump has expressed regret for mediating the release of three American basketball players accused of shoplifting from Chinese jail, after a player’s father downplayed his role in the process.
Chinese law enforcement officers arrested LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill – all UCLA students—last week on suspicion of stealing sunglasses from a luxury store while their team was staying in the city of Hangzhou.
Trump had said he had personally asked his counterpart Xi Jinping to intervene in the case. However, LaVar Ball, LiAngelo’s father, suggested the US president had little to do with the matter.
"Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal," Trump tweeted Sunday. "I should have left them in jail!"
“Shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be (5-10 years in jail), but not to father LaVar. Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful!” the president wrote in a second tweet.
In his ESPN interview, LaVar Ball played down his son’s crime, saying he has seen “a lot worse things happen” in his hometown of Los Angeles.
“A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, 'They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes’,” he said of Chinese authorities.
Trump issued a call for gratitude from the players last Wednesday.
"Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!" he wrote on twitter.
The three players thanked him at a news conference later that day. Trump wished them a "great life" in a follow-up message the next day.
"To the three UCLA basketball players I say: You're welcome, go out and give a big Thank You to President Xi Jinping of China who made your release possible and, HAVE A GREAT LIFE! Be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!" he wrote.