The three UCLA basketball players detained in China last week have admitted to shoplifting and thanked President Donald Trump for helping them return to the U.S.
The players are suspended indefinitely as UCLA reviews the situation, Coach Steve Alford said, adding they will not travel with the team and will not suit up for home games.
Last week, while in China for a game against Georgia Tech, the three players, LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley, were detained for questioning following shoplifting allegations. The rest of the UCLA team returned home without them on Saturday. Ball, Hill and Riley returned to Los Angeles on Tuesday.
At today’s press conference Riley said he takes “full responsibility for the mistake I have made — shoplifting,” and said he is “embarrassed” and “ashamed.”
Riley thanked the Chinese police and government for taking care of them and he also thanked Trump and the U.S. government for intervening “on our behalf.”
“We really appreciate you helping us out,” he said.
“I will never do anything again to jeopardize UCLA’s reputation,” Riley said.
Ball apologized for “stealing” from the stores in China, calling it a “stupid decision.”
Ball said he “didn’t exercise my best judgment,” adding, “I’ve learned my lesson.”
He also thanked Trump and the U.S. government for helping and said he takes “full responsibility” for his actions.
Hill admitted to shoplifting and thanked the president as well, describing his actions as “stupid” and “childish.”
Alford called the players “good young men” who “exercised an inexcusable lapse of judgment.” The coach, who also apologized on their behalf, said he’s “extremely disappointed” and said the players “let a lot of people down.”
The shoplifting took place on Nov. 6, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said.
On Nov. 7, police arrived at their hotel to interview students and search bags and the team bus, and once the three suspects were identified, they were escorted to a police station, Guerrero said.
On Nov. 8, the students were released on bail and surrendered their passports, he said.
On Tuesday, local authorities confirmed the students were free to leave the country, and the charges were withdrawn, he said.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement Tuesday that “the matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of the Chinese authorities.”
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said Tuesday, “Our primary concern remains the safety and well-being of all members of our community, particularly our students. I am grateful they are headed home.”
Block added, “When members of the UCLA family fail to uphold these values, we review these incidents with fair and thorough processes. In this particular case, both Athletics and the Office of Student Conduct will review this incident and guide any action with respect to the involved students. Such proceedings are confidential, which limits the specific information that can be shared.”
Trump on Tuesday said he personally appealed to China’s President Xi Jingping to help resolve the case. The president said Xi was “terrific” in response to his request and indicated he would intervene.
Today, hours before that players’ press conference, Trump tweeted, “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”
SOURCE: EMILY SHAPIRO and STACY CHEN