President Trump isn’t the only American visiting Asia this week. College basketball teams UCLA and Georgia Tech were set to square off in the foreign country on Saturday in Shanghai. Now it is unclear what will happen to LiAngelo Ball and two other players who were detained for allegedly stealing from a Louis Vuitton store.
Ball's brother, Lonzo Ball, is already with the Los Angeles Lakers.
LiAngelo’s father, La Var Ball, who made a name for himself while wildly marketing his son’s basketball talents and has been known to get into feuds with the likes of Charles Barkley, thought it was no big deal his son was arrested in China for stealing.
LaVar Ball said it “ain’t that big a deal” and seemed to think the media was hyping the news of the charges. Sporting News claimed Ball was going to hold a press conference on Wednesday but was advised against it.
In a longer statement, the father of the basketball superstar said, “It is a very unfortunate situation that the Ball Family, and UCLA has to deal with at this particular time. We will comment shortly.”
The other two UCLA players with Ball who were detained by Chinese police in Hanzhou are Jalen Hill and Cody Riley. The UCLA freshmen could be sentenced to 3-10 years in prison if convicted of the charges. Their coach announced on Wednesday that they will not be playing in Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech.
UCLA said that it is cooperating with local authorities and some experts have said that suspects in China can be held for up to a month or more before being properly indicted. The three were lucky to be released on bail; according to UCLA, they will be benched for Saturday’s game but the school did not comment on whether or not their actions will lead to them missing out on the entire season or getting expelled from the school.
The commissioner of Pac-12 issued a statement reading:
Yesterday in Hangzhou, China, U.C.L.A. student-athletes were involved in a situation, and U.C.L.A. is cooperating fully with local authorities. We are directing all inquiries about the specifics of this matter to U.C.L.A. We are very disappointed by any situation that detracts from the positive student-athlete educational and cultural experience that this week is about. Whether in the United States or abroad, we expect our student-athletes to uphold the highest standards. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.
This isn’t the first time U.S. basketball players have created news in while in China; in 2011 during an exhibition game a Chinese player rushed at a U.S. player and tackled him. Vice President Biden was at the game.
The arrest of these UCLA all-stars could end up being the biggest sports scandal in the school’s history. other notable moments included P. Diddy avoiding charges after swinging a kettle bell weight at a UCLA staffer in 2015 and roughly two dozen football players being charged with parking in handicapped spots in the 1990's.
A State Department official told The Washington Post that they were aware of the reports of the arrested U.S. citizens and that they were ready to provide “appropriate consular assistance for U.S. citizens.” They had no further comment due to privacy reasons.
As of this posting President Trump and the White House have not commented on the situation.