President Trump wonders if UCLA players will thank him for release from China

President Donald Trump apparently helped orchestrate the release of three UCLA players detained in China for shoplifting. It was, without question, a good deed, the kind of diplomacy we would all hope for and expect from an American president.

Apparently, however, Trump also wants a specific thank you from the players:

UCLA’s LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were arrested in Hangzhou last week, charged with shoplifting at a Louis Vuitton store near their hotel. They did not return to the United States with their teammates, and faced the possibility of severe penalties.

However, it was the UCLA Three’s good fortune that Trump happened to be on an Asian tour at the exact moment they found themselves in trouble. Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping discussed the plight of the three players, and apparently reached an agreement that allowed them to head back home earlier this week.

“The basketball players, by the way — I know a lot of people are asking — I will tell you, when I heard about it two days ago, I had a great conversation with President Xi,” Trump said on Air Force One during his return from Asia. “What they did was unfortunate. You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. [The Chinese] do not play games.”

Soon afterward, the players were released, and observers said it’s clear there was intervention from on high. “Without instructions from above, they [would] not let the students out easily because the authorities want to prove foreigners are treated equally here,” Wen Yu, a lawyer in Guangzhou, China, told Yahoo Sports.

One way or another, then, Trump did help secure the release of the players. Most who have served in the presidency haven’t sought excessive thanks for doing their job; the gig of Most Powerful Man in the World is pretty much its own reward. But it probably wouldn’t kill the UCLA Three to drop Trump a little thank-you note, regardless.

LiAngelo Ball returns to Los Angeles after being detained in China. (AP)
LiAngelo Ball returns to Los Angeles after being detained in China. (AP)

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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