The UCLA basketball star who was arrested in China for shoplifting now claims he was ordered to “thank President Trump” by school officials, adding he never would have expressed his gratitude to the Commander-in-Chief had the university not “told him to do it.”
LiAngelo Ball and two other college basketball players were detained by Chinese police, and subsequently released following President Trump’s intervention. Upon their arrival in the United States, the trio thanked the President for securing their freedom.
the university “told him to do it”
Ball now reveals his gratitude was anything but genuine, telling sports website ForTheWin that he was instructed to thank the President after the Commander-in-Chief mentioned the international spat on social media.
“They wanted to hear that, and he tweeted about it before my speech so I had to add it in there right before I gave it,” said LiAngelo.
“My school wanted to hear it too. Before I went up there, it’s like, ‘You gotta thank him.’ I just threw him in there real quick before I gave my speech,” he added. “If they didn’t want me to do it. If they didn’t tell me to do it, it wouldn’t have been in there, to be honest.”
LiAngelo’s father, LaVar Ball, raised eyebrows across the country last month, refusing to thank President Trump for his son’s release during a bizarre interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
“What did Trump ever do to help me?” asked Ball.
TRUMP TALKS TOUGH: China Releases UCLA Basketball Stars
A trio of college basketball stars from UCLA who were arrested in China for property theft while the team visited the country for an international tournament have been released and are currently traveling to the United States, reports Fox News.
The three players, LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill, and Cody Riley were arrested by Chinese authorities for reportedly stealing sunglasses from an upscale store near the team’s hotel, and have been detained by police for more than a week.
The release comes just days after President Trump personally appealed to Chinese leader Xi Jinping to release the athletes. US authorities confirmed on Tuesday that the issue “has been resolved to the satisfaction of the Chinese authorities,” thanking President Trump for resolving “the incident with authorities in Hangzhou, China.”
“I had a great conversation with President Xi,” Trump told journalists aboard Air Force One as he returned from his two-week long trip to Asia. “He was terrific, and they’re working on it right now, and hopefully everything is going to work out.”
“What they did was unfortunate,” he added. “You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. They do not play games.”
WATCH: Freed UCLA Players 'THANK TRUMP' for Intervening in China
Three college basketball stars recently freed from a Chinese prison thanked President Donald Trump for interceding on their behalf with Beijing officials, saying they “really appreciate” Trump’s support in recent days.
The UCLA players held a joint press conference Wednesday afternoon, shortly after arriving in Los Angeles following their detention in China for allegedly shoplifting sunglasses at a high-end boutique.
“To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf. We really appreciate you helping us out,” said one of the students.
“I would also like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they provided as well,” said another.
Trump learned of the international incident while touring Beijing with Chinese leader Xi Jinping last week, asking the communist leader to free the students while the President toured Asia as part of his two-week historic visit.
Watch the UCLA students’ comments above.