We now know what really happened during LiAngelo Ball's shoplifting incident in China


A report Friday from’s Arash Markazi provides several new details on the events surrounding the November shoplifting incident involving LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA freshmen basketball players in China.

Initial reports from the Nov. 6 incident suggested Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley had shoplifted sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store. While each player did steal from the store, they also stole from two other businesses.

Markazi, citing sources who were on the ground with the team in China, reported that Ball initially tried to buy a pair of $730 sunglasses from the Louis Vuitton store, but his credit card was declined, presumably because the card company did not know Ball was in China.

The three athletes left the store momentarily, then returned and each stole a pair of glasses.

They then walked a short ways to another store, stole three more pair of sunglasses — this time valued at less than $20 a pair — before going into an H&M store, where they stole some low-cost bracelets.

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The next day, Chinese police questioned all three players after identifying them from surveillance footage provided by the stores. The players were eventually handcuffed and taken to a local police station.

Authorities initially only suspected the players in the theft from the Louis Vuitton store. It wasn’t until later on Nov. 7 that management from the other two stores reported the shoplifting incidents and surveillance footage again confirmed it was the three UCLA players who were involved.

The players were forced to return the stolen merchandise and apologize. They were released on bail but their passports were surrendered. School officials told them to remain in their hotel rooms until the terms of their return to the U.S. could be worked out.

On Nov. 10, the charges were dropped but under the terms of an agreement between the local authorities and UCLA officials, the three students were forced to remain behind for three additional days after the rest of the team returned to the U.S.

Did the three UCLA players get off with a light punishment for shoplifting?

“It was important for (Chinese authorities) that the players were left back for a couple of days after the rest of the team flew home,” a team source told ESPN. “We agreed not to say anything and not comment until they returned home. They wanted there to be some kind of punishment and avoid the perception that they got off easy. Their flights were switched from Saturday night to Tuesday night, so they were going back home 72 hours after the rest of the team. So, it wasn’t like we found out Tuesday morning they were coming home that day. We knew. That was already the plan Friday morning.”

ESPN’s report also suggests that while President Donald Trump did get involved in trying to make sure the players were released, his involvement came after the handshake agreement was made to let the players return later than the rest of the team.

“The situation was already resolved by the time we heard about Trump’s involvement,” one team source said. “That’s not to take away from the fact that he got involved, but the players already had their passports back and their flights booked to go home Tuesday night when Gen. (John) Kelly called the players.”

When the three players eventually returned to the UCLA campus, they held a news conference in which each one apologized and thanked Trump for his efforts in getting them back home.

According to the ESPN report, the thank-yous to Trump were encouraged by school officials who felt such a gesture was in order, even though it wasn’t clear what role the president actually played in their release.

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“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” a source said. “Everyone wanted to move on and put this behind us. Why get into it with the president? Let’s not create another story by not thanking him. He had already tweeted about getting a thank you the morning of the press conference, so thank him and move on.”

The three players were eventually suspended indefinitely by the university. Ball announced he was leaving the UCLA program shortly thereafter.

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Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. A native of Milwaukee, he currently resides in Phoenix.
Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. He has more than 20 years of experience in print and broadcast journalism. A native of Milwaukee, he has resided in Phoenix since 2012.
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