'I should have left them in jail!': Trump fires back at LaVar Ball

President Donald Trump directed a message at LaVar Ball on Twitter on Sunday, less than 24 hours after Ball downplayed the President's role in helping Ball's son, LiAngelo, and two other UCLA basketball players return to the United States safely after they were arrested in China for shoplifting.

"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," Trump wrote. "I should have left them in jail!"

The back-and-forth between Trump and LaVar Ball stems from a situation in Hangzhou, China, earlier this month. LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were arrested for shoplifting items, including sunglasses, from three stores while in the country to play a game against Georgia Tech.

While experts in Chinese law told USA TODAY Sports that the trio would probably not face severe punishment, Trump posted on Twitter that they were in line for "10 years in jail" before he intervened. Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday that he had spoken with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, about the situation on the players' behalf. The trio returned to the United States less than 24 hours later and apologized in a press conference Wednesday.

Throughout the ordeal, LiAngelo Ball's outspoken father had been quiet. That changed Saturday, when he was asked about Trump's involvement by ESPN.

"Who?" LaVar Ball answered. "What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out."

LiAngelo Ball, Hill and Riley have been indefinitely suspended from the team.

After the players returned, Trump wondered on Twitter whether they would thank him for his intervention on their behalf. All three players, and UCLA coach Steve Alford, thanked him by name in the Wednesday press conference.

Trump then posted on Twitter on Thursday, telling the players "you're welcome" and "HAVE A GREAT LIFE," among other things.

LaVar Ball told ESPN that while he was pleased with how the situation in China was handled, he feels like it was overblown.

"Like I told him, 'They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes,'" Ball told ESPN. "I'm from L.A. I've seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses."

Those comments apparently prompted Trump's tweet on Sunday.

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad. 

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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