UCLA basketball players flying home from China; Trump says their actions 'unfortunate'

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 06:30:03 AM. The three UCLA freshmen basketball players held in China for a week were seen at an airport Tuesday night checking into a flight bound for Los Angeles.

The three freshmen basketball players held in China for a week are on their way back to Los Angeles.

LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley had been detained at a hotel in Hangzhou, accused by Chinese authorities of shoplifting a pair of designer sunglasses from an upscale store during the Bruins’ visit last week.

The players are not facing any charges in China, according to a person close to the situation not authorized to comment publicly because of the sensitivity of the situation. However, it was not clear whether the resolution of the case came as a result of insufficient evidence or a negotiated deal.

President Trump, speaking to reporters Air Force One on Tuesday before the trio’s release was known, implied there had been some type of impropriety. “What they did was unfortunate,” he said of the players. “You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences.” He added, referring to the Chinese, “They do not play games.”

Trump credited Chinese President with intervening. “President Xi has been terrific on that subject. But that was not a good subject,” Trump said. “That was not something that should have happened.”

The UCLA players boarded a Delta flight that left Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport at 9 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to land just after 5 p.m. PST at LAX.

Any university-levied punishment has not been determined at this point.

UCLA has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to discuss the matter. Ball, Hill and Riley will share a statement at the news conference, scheduled for 11 a.m.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block released the following statement:

“To the Campus Community:

“I know many of you have heard the news over the past week about three of our men’s basketball student-athletes who were detained by police in connection with a shoplifting incident in China. Since that time, our primary focus has been on bringing our students back safely, and I am pleased to report that they are now returning home.

“I would like to express my gratitude to all who helped us get to this point. I also want to acknowledge everyone who wrote or called to express their thoughts and concerns. We have heard and appreciate everyone’s views. I want to be clear that we take seriously any violations of the law. We remain one of the world’s top academic institutions in large part because of our values and standards, which we work hard to infuse throughout our campus community.

“When members of the UCLA family fail to uphold these values, we review these incidents with fair and thorough processes. In this particular case, both Athletics and the Office of Student Conduct will review this incident and guide any action with respect to the involved students. Such proceedings are confidential, which limits the specific information that can be shared.

“Our primary concern remains the safety and well-being of all members of our community, particularly our students. I am grateful they are headed home.”

Conference commissioner Larry Scott also issued a statement: “The three UCLA men’s basketball student-athletes involved in the incident with authorities in Hangzhou, China, are on a flight back home to Los Angeles, and the matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of the Chinese authorities. We are all very pleased that these young men have been allowed to return home to their families and university.”

Ball, Riley and Hill were seen publicly in China for the first time since the incident on Monday, and a UCLA official said they were “doing fine.”

Staff writers Ben Bolch, Brian Bennett and Matthew DeButts contributed to this report.

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