Soon after LaVar Ball downplayed to role that President Donald Trump played in getting his son, UCLA basketball star LiAngelo Ball, out of Chinese jail for shoplifting with two of his teammates, the president tweeted, “I should have left them in jail.”
While in China, Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he brought up the release of the UCLA players in a meeting he had with Chinese President Xi Jingping, noting that they were arranging to permit the basketball stars to return to the United States.
"What they did was unfortunate,” Trump commented on the players’ shoplifting, according to Townhall. “You know, you're talking about very long prison sentences. They do not play games."
In good hands with Trump
Trump was optimistic about his negotiations with the Chinese president to release the players from China after shoplifting – a crime punishable by up to 10 years in Chinese prison
"Hopefully, everything is going to work out,” Trump expressed. “[It is] a very rough situation. [President Xi Jinping had been] terrific on that subject."
Shortly afterward, it was announced that Trump’s intercession worked and all three players were sent back home. But when the president tweeted his disappointment in the players’ lack of thanks, all three quickly thanked him, supposedly ending the embarrassing saga.
“LiAngelo Ball … thanked the president upon returning last week to the United States,” Fox News reported. “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.”
All three missed their game and were detained for a week in their hotel rooms – and with China’s unforgiving penal system, would have most likely remained in China for some time … long after Thanksgiving and Christmas, and quite possibly well into their mid-20s.
“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,” Fox News’ Joseph Weber reported. “The rest of the UCLA team returned home earlier.”
Unthankful before Thanksgiving
However, another episode started when LiAngelo’s father, LaVar Ball – who played college football and basketball and was drafted by an NFL team, but never played – showed nothing but disrespect for the president after everything he had done to work for his son’s quick release.
Instead of expressing his sincere gratitude for working toward the release of his son, the outspoken Big Baller Brand founder insulted Trump – downplaying his son’s shoplifting and trivializing the president’s role in arranging for the players’ return home.
"Who?" LaVar Ball questioningly sneered Friday on ESPN after being asked about Trump's involvement in the matter. "What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out."
The unappreciative father did not stop there, trying to make Trump’s intercession look like nothing more than a political stunt or photo op, while minimizing his son’s theft as little more than a trifling mistake.
"As long as my boy's back here, I'm fine," LaVar Ball expressed to ESPN. "I'm happy with how things were handled. 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.' I'm from L.A. I've seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn't define him. Now, if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that's a different thing.”
He then insisted that his son’s theft and character flaw were blown out of proportion and declared the incident as water under the bridge – all the while continuing to ignore Trump’s advocacy for his son and two teammates that led to their freedom.
"Everybody gets stuck on the negativity of some things, and they get stuck on them too long,” added Ball, whose older son, Lonzo Ball, is a rookie on the Los Angeles Lakers. “That's not me. I handle what's going on, and then we go from there."
After LaVar Ball’s rant against Trump – and defense of his son – the president took to Twitter to size up the father’s response.
"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!"
The president then reminded the unappreciative father that his son could have been spending Thanksgiving in a communist prison – if not for his diligence of bringing the matter up with the Chinese president.
"Shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be (5-10 years in jail), but not to father LaVar,” Trump tweeted later on Sunday. “Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful!"