Three UCLA basketball players accused of shoplifting in China could be coming home sooner than expected if Chinese President Xi Jinping steps in. President Donald Trump asked Xi to resolve the case during his recent state visit in China while on tour of Asia, The Washington Post reported.
Xi promised Trump that the student athletes would be treated fairly, but given the country’s history of racism against Black people and a justice system that has been called “flawed,” the players’ legal future was uncertain.
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has been in touch with the families, the UCLA coaching staff and Chinese authorities, a source told the newspaper.
In the meantime, the ball players will likely remain in a hotel in Hangzhou for at least another week. They were first arrested last Tuesday.
LiAngelo Ball—the son of LaVar Ball and brother of Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball—and teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were reportedly caught on video surveillance footage stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near the hotel where the team was staying ahead of the season’s first game last Friday.
The arrests happened days before Trump’s visit. The two leaders did not speak about it publicly even though the arrests made headlines worldwide. If convicted, they could be sentenced to as many as 10 years in prison.