President Trump on Sunday responded to the father of one of the UCLA basketball players detained in China on shoplifting charges after the man snubbed the president’s successful effort to get the teammates released, saying, “I should have left them in jail."
The president responded after LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of UCLA player LiAngelo Ball, downplayed Trump’s effort.
Trump said while on his recent trip to Asia, at the same time the players allegedly shoplifted in China during a basketball tournament, that he had spoken directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the matter.
"Who?" LaVar Ball later told ESPN. "What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out."
Trump tweeted Sunday: "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. I should have left them in jail!"
Later Sunday, Trump tweeted again, saying, "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!"
LiAngelo Ball, one of three UCLA players accused of shoplifting, thanked the president upon returning last week to the United States.
Freshmen Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday from Shanghai. They each thanked Trump during a press conference Wednesday about the incident.
The players were detained in Hangzhou for questioning following allegations, before the 23rd-ranked UCLA Bruins beat Georgia Tech in their season-opening game in Shanghai as part of the Pac-12 China game. The rest of the UCLA team returned home earlier.
Trump said Tuesday he had a long conversation about the three players' status with his Chinese counterpart.
Ball’s outspoken father, LaVar, whose eldest son, Lonzo, plays on the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers team, was in China at the time of the incident. He spent some time promoting the family's Big Baller Brand of athletic shoes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.