Three UCLA basketball players have indicated their appreciation for the assistance President Donald Trump provided to them to ensure they avoided going to jail in China.
Authorities in China detained LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill on shoplifting charges after playing their season opener in Hangzhou, Fox News reports.
"I would like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they've provided as well," Ball said at a Nov. 15 press conference, according to Fox.
Chinese authorities arrested Ball along with Riley and Hill and accused them of stealing designer sunglasses from a store next to the team's hotel in Hangzhou.
"To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf," added Riley. "We really appreciate you helping us out."
"Thank you to the United States government and President Trump for your efforts to bring us home," said Hill.
While in Beijing on a state visit, Trump personally asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to intervene and resolve the case.
Trump tweeted on Nov. 15 about his intervention prior to the messages from the UCLA players: "Do you think the three UCLA basketball players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!"
A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry avoided confirming whether Xi intervened in the case.
"I am not aware of the details, but I believe the Chinese police would have handled the case in strict accordance with the law," spokesman Geng Shuang stated.
The trio returned to Los Angeles on Nov. 14. They have been suspended from the team indefinitely.
Coach Steve Alford addressed the incident at the Nov. 15 press conference, The Washington Post reports:
These men are going to have to prove, through their words and actions, that this isn’t who they are, and that they will not let their identity be defined by this incident. I know [LiAngelo], Cody and Jalen well, and I am confident they have already begun to use this experience as a life lesson. They are going to have to regain the trust of this athletic department, of this university, and because this was such a high-profile international matter, that of the general public … My expectation is they will work hard to demonstrate why they deserve to be part of this program.
At the same press conference, all three players spoke and expressed remorse. They admitted to having stolen goods from three stores.
"I'd like to start off by saying sorry for stealing from the stores in China," added Ball. "I didn't exercise my best judgment, and I was wrong for that."