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Trump gets athletes out of international hot water

by Panos Argitis - Sports Editor
Tue, Nov 28th 2017 10:00 pm
 Photo taken from Flickr    
unsportsmanlike fiasco cody Riley, LiAngelo Ball  and Jalen Hill answer questions from reporters and the public about their theft charges at UCLA's news conference. The athletes were facing up to 10 years in jail in China until President Trump took care of the situation.
Photo taken from Flickr unsportsmanlike fiasco cody Riley, LiAngelo Ball and Jalen Hill answer questions from reporters and the public about their theft charges at UCLA's news conference. The athletes were facing up to 10 years in jail in China until President Trump took care of the situation.

ee UCLA players by the names of Jalen Hill, Cody Riley and LiAngelo Ball, were caught shoplifting from multiple stores that were near the hotel they stayed in during the team’s China tour. Due to the difference in criminal offenses between the U.S. and China, the three superstars were facing jail-time of up to 10 years; until President Trump stepped in. 

Shortly after the trio was caught shoplifting by the police, images of the young men in handcuffs and stories about prison time ending their college basketball careers surfaced the internet. The breaking story made its way to social media and eventually hit the top trend on Twitter. 

Apart from reaching the mass media, the story ultimately made its way to Trump’s attention. Known for his frequent use of Twitter, decided to take the issue in his own hands. 

Following claims made by the Chinese government which stated that Hill, Riley and Ball would be staying in China to face the theft charges they were responsible for, Trump had arrived in Beijing as part of his Asia trip a day after the three players were detained for shoplifting. Luckily for the UCLA players, Trump’s visit was perfectly timed. 

Throughout the duration of his state visit, Trump spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping in hopes of getting the players back to their home court of UCLA by dropping their charges. According to The Washington Post, Trump told reporters “he had great conversations” with Xi Jinping about the future of the college athletes. 

“What they did was unfortunate. We are talking about very long prison sentences,” he stated. 

The charges and jail time that the three athletes were facing immediately dropped and the trio of players were back in the U.S. within a single day after Trump visited Beijing. Trump followed the issue by publicly thanking Xi Jinping and wishing the UCLA players a bright future. 

A public news conference took place in UCLA after the three players returned to the U.S. in where the players discussed the situation, apologized for their actions and thanked President Trump and the U.S. Government. 

According to The New York Times, freshman power forward Riley stated that he was extremely sorry to UCLA for his actions and for shoplifting from the stores in China. 

“I’m a young man, but it’s not an excuse for making a really stupid decision,” Riley said. 

In addition, the news conference led to the players’ suspensions from any home game for this year’s season. According to reports from NPR, Head coach Steve Alford said that the players need to learn from their mistake. 

“They're going to have to regain the trust of this athletic department, of this university, and because this was such a high-profile international matter, the trust of the general public," Alford said.

The players’ actions were unacceptable and although I believe that serving 10 years of jail time for theft is ridiculous, I think that coach Alford’s take on punishing the players is excellent. While the trio can train with the team, they can’t play at home, and I think that results in a harder work ethic. 

As per usual, Trump did not hold back from sharing his feat of saving the trio of athletes from 10 years in jail with the rest of the world. After the news conference, President Trump tweeted: “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball players will say thank you to President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail.” 

Following Trump’s tweet, LaVar Ball, father of LiAngelo Ball, downplayed Trump’s involvement on the issue by responding with “who?” to ESPN’s Arash Markazi’s question about how Trump’s help affected the situation. 

Given his background in responding to mass media with answers that promote public attention, there is speculation that the public figure simply responded with the irrational comment in order to gain internet traffic for his private company Big Baller Brand. 

After Ball’s comment during his interview with ESPN’s Markazi, Trump presented his thoughts of the situation by tweeting: “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. I should have left them in jail!” 

The tension between Ball and Trump has recently diminished and the trio of Hill, Riley and Ball are fully practicing with the rest of the UCLA basketball team. The athletes will be looking to regain their trust from the organization that they play for.

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