New details of UCLA basketball players arrests in China suggest Trump's role in their release was far less than previously believed

  • After three UCLA basketball players were arrested on charges of shoplifting in China, it was reported that President Donald Trump intervened and played a role in their release.
  • A new report downplays the role Trump played, something LaVar Ball contended at the time, sparking a feud between him and Trump.
  • According to the report, the players' charges had been dropped and they had booked a flight home by the time the White House had gotten involved.

In November, three UCLA men's basketball players, LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill were arrested in Hangzhou, China, for shoplifting.

The incident became an international sports story, with reports of the players being under house arrest in their hotel, questions of when they could return to the U.S., and reports indicating that President Donald Trump had gotten involved and asked Chinese president Xi Jingping to help facilitate the players' return home.

According to a new report from ESPN's Arash Markazi, Trump's involvement in the case may have been overstated, something LaVar Ball contended at the time, sparking a feud between the president and the outspoken entrepreneur.

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Ball family members arrive in Lithuania
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Ball family members arrive in Lithuania
US entrepreneur LaVar Ball waves upon his arrival with his sons at Vilnius airport in Lithuania, on January 3, 2018, as the two teenagers arrive in the country to make their basketball pro career debut in the Lithuanian Vytautas club. Basketball-crazed Lithuania welcomes LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, the two youngest sons of flamboyant Los Angeles entrepreneur LaVar Ball who recently made headlines due to a feud with US President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / Petras Malukas (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US entrepreneur LaVar Ball talks to journalists upon his arrival with his sons at Vilnius airport in Lithuania, on January 3, 2018, as the two teenagers arrive in the country to make their basketball pro career debut in the Lithuanian Vytautas club. Basketball-crazed Lithuania welcomes LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, the two youngest sons of flamboyant Los Angeles entrepreneur LaVar Ball who recently made headlines due to a feud with US President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / Petras Malukas (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US basketball player LiAngelo Ball (R) arrives at Vilnius airport in Lithuania, on January 3, 2018, as he and his brother are about to make their basketball pro career debut in the Lithuanian Vytautas club. Basketball-crazed Lithuania welcomes LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, the two youngest sons of flamboyant Los Angeles entrepreneur LaVar Ball who recently made headlines due to a feud with US President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / Petras Malukas (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US entrepreneur LaVar Ball talks to journalists upon his arrival with his sons at Vilnius airport in Lithuania, on January 3, 2018, as the two teenagers arrive in the country to make their basketball pro career debut in the Lithuanian Vytautas club. Basketball-crazed Lithuania welcomes LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, the two youngest sons of flamboyant Los Angeles entrepreneur LaVar Ball who recently made headlines due to a feud with US President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / Petras Malukas (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US basketball player LiAngelo Ball poses with fans upon his arrival at Vilnius airport in Lithuania, on January 3, 2018, as he and his brother are about to make their basketball pro career debut in the Lithuanian Vytautas club. Basketball-crazed Lithuania welcomes LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, the two youngest sons of flamboyant Los Angeles entrepreneur LaVar Ball who recently made headlines due to a feud with US President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / Petras Malukas (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US basketball player LiAngelo Ball arrives at Vilnius airport in Lithuania, on January 3, 2018, as he and his brother are about to make their basketball pro career debut in the Lithuanian Vytautas club. Basketball-crazed Lithuania welcomes LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, the two youngest sons of flamboyant Los Angeles entrepreneur LaVar Ball who recently made headlines due to a feud with US President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / Petras Malukas (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US basketball player Lamelo Ball arrives at Vilnius airport in Lithuania, on January 3, 2018, as he and his brother are about to make their basketball pro career debut in the Lithuanian Vytautas club. Basketball-crazed Lithuania welcomes LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, the two youngest sons of flamboyant Los Angeles entrepreneur LaVar Ball who recently made headlines due to a feud with US President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / Petras Malukas (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US basketball player Lamelo Ball arrives at Vilnius airport in Lithuania, on January 3, 2018, as he and his brother are about to make their basketball pro career debut in the Lithuanian Vytautas club. Basketball-crazed Lithuania welcomes LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, the two youngest sons of flamboyant Los Angeles entrepreneur LaVar Ball who recently made headlines due to a feud with US President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / Petras Malukas (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US entrepreneur LaVar Ball arrives with his sons (unseen) at Vilnius airport in Lithuania, on January 3, 2018, as the two teenagers arrive in the country to make their basketball pro career debut in the Lithuanian Vytautas club. Basketball-crazed Lithuania welcomes LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, the two youngest sons of flamboyant Los Angeles entrepreneur LaVar Ball who recently made headlines due to a feud with US President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / Petras Malukas (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US entrepreneur LaVar Ball talks to journalists upon his arrival with his sons at Vilnius airport in Lithuania, on January 3, 2018, as the two teenagers arrive in the country to make their basketball pro career debut in the Lithuanian Vytautas club. Basketball-crazed Lithuania welcomes LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, the two youngest sons of flamboyant Los Angeles entrepreneur LaVar Ball who recently made headlines due to a feud with US President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / Petras Malukas (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US entrepreneur LaVar Ball talks to journalists upon his arrival with his sons at Vilnius airport in Lithuania, on January 3, 2018, as the two teenagers arrive in the country to make their basketball pro career debut in the Lithuanian Vytautas club. Basketball-crazed Lithuania welcomes LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, the two youngest sons of flamboyant Los Angeles entrepreneur LaVar Ball who recently made headlines due to a feud with US President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / Petras Malukas (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Jaunius Malisauskas, the owner of the TangoPizza restaurant, poses with his wife Dovile at their restaurant on January 3, 2018 in Prienai, southern Lithuania, where two young basketball stars from the US were expected. Basketball-crazed Lithuania prepares to welcome LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, the two youngest sons of flamboyant Los Angeles entrepreneur LaVar Ball who recently made headlines due to a feud with US President Donald Trump. The teenagers will make their pro career debut in the Vytautas club, ranked last in the Lithuania basketball league and located in the small southern town of Prienai, population 10,000. / AFP PHOTO / Petras Malukas (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
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On Monday, November 6, LiAngelo, Riley, and Hill stole sunglasses from three stores in Hangzhou, the most expensive coming from Louis Vuitton. According to the report, the next day, Louis Vuitton (and later, the other stores) reported the shoplifting to the police, and security cameras pointed to the three players. The three players were arrested and taken to the police station where they were questioned.

Over the course of about 24 hours, the players returned the sunglasses and were released on bail for approximately $2,200, but their passports were withheld so they could not leave the country. The school told the players to stay in their hotel rooms.

According to the report, UCLA officials and the Chinese police made a deal to keep the players behind so that it did not look like they got off easily. By Friday morning, the charges had been dropped and the players had received their passports.

It was only on Sunday, according to the report, that the White House learned of the arrest, via news reports. On Sunday, White House chief of staff John Kelly called the players to tell them that Trump was getting involved.

One sources told Markazi that the issue was largely settled by then.

"The situation was already resolved by the time we heard about Trump's involvement. That's not to take away from the fact that he got involved, but the players already had their passports back and their flights booked to go home Tuesday night when Gen. Kelly called the players."

12 PHOTOS
LiAngelo Ball, teammates return from China
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LiAngelo Ball, teammates return from China
UCLA basketball players LiAngelo Ball (R) and Cody Riley arrive at LAX after flying back from China where they were detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball arrives at LAX after flying back from China where he was detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
UCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball arrives at LAX after flying back from China where he was detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA basketball players LiAngelo Ball (R) and Cody Riley arrive at LAX after flying back from China where they were detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA basketball players LiAngelo Ball (R) and Cody Riley arrive at LAX after flying back from China where they were detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA basketball players LiAngelo Ball (R) and Cody Riley arrive at LAX after flying back from China where they were detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball arrives at LAX after flying back from China where he was detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA basketball players LiAngelo Ball (R) and Cody Riley arrive at LAX after flying back from China where they were detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA basketball players LiAngelo Ball arrives at LAX after flying back from China where he was detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA basketball players Cody Riley, LiAngelo Ball, and Jalen Hill arrive to speak at a press conference at UCLA after flying back from China where they were detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA basketball players Cody Riley, LiAngelo Ball, and Jalen Hill speak at a press conference at UCLA after flying back from China where they were detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA basketball players Cody Riley, LiAngelo Ball and Jalen Hill speak at a press conference at UCLA after flying back from China, where they were detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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The players returned to Los Angeles early Tuesday morning amid a swarm of media. Prior to making official statements, Trump tweeted: "Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!"

According to the ESPN report, the school told the players to thank Trump in their prepared statements.

"It just seemed like the right thing to do," a source told Markazi. "Everyone wanted to move on and put this behind us. Why get into it with the president? Let's not create another story by not thanking him."

The three players were suspended indefinitely by UCLA. Ball later left UCLA and signed a deal to play in Lithuania.

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