President Donald Trump wished he had not helped secure the release of three college basketball players caught shoplifting in China after one of their fathers downplayed his role.
The UCLA trio of LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were briefly detained for stealing from a Louis Vuitton store in the city of Hangzhou earlier this month in what became a minor diplomatic incident.
Upon their return, they held a press conference to apologize and thank the president as well as the Chinese government for letting them go without prosecution.
But Ball’s father LaVar Ball, a brash media personality known for outspoken advocacy of his three basketball-playing sons, minimized the president’s role in an interview Friday with sports network ESPN.
Trump lashed out, 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!” he added.
Asked to comment on Trump’s help, Ball had told ESPN: “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.” He also minimized the severity of his son’s offence, saying: “I’m from L.A. I’ve seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses.
“Now if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that’s a different thing.” The case drew great attention in the United States because LiAngelo’s elder brother Lonzo has been a star for the Los Angeles Lakers in his debut season.