President Donald Trump once again pointed out the refusal by LaVar Ball for failing to thank him for his son’s release from China, where he faced shoplifting charges and possible imprisonment. Son LiAngelo Ball was one of three UCLA basketball players who were charged with shoplifting at a shopping center in China. It was after President Trump personally intervened with China’s leader that the four were released.

LaVar Ball, a former NBA player, has pointedly refused to thank the president for the release of his son, LiAngelo. He is the owner of the Big Baller brand.

In the early hours on Wednesday, the president tweeted, “It wasn’t the White House, it wasn’t the State Department, it wasn’t father LaVar’s so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence. It was me. Too bad! LaVar is just a poor man’s version of Don King, but without the hair. Just think, “LaVar, you could have spent the next 5 to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China, but no NBA contract to support you. But remember LaVar, shoplifting is not a little thing. It’s really a big deal, especially in China. Ungrateful fool!”

LaVar Ball, the player’s father, pointedly refused to offer thanks to the president on Tuesday. On CNN, LaVar Ball told show host Chris Cuomo, “I don’t have to go around saying thank you to everybody.” Ball questioned the president’s intervention to save his son during an official trip to China. Ball said a trip for his son LiAngelo on Air Force One would have changed his attitude toward Trump, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell.

The elder Ball told CNN’s Cuomo that he is not criticizing the president, but does not feel the need to thank Trump. "If I was going to thank somebody I was going to thank President Xi," said Ball. His oldest son, Lonzo, plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. Saying that he is not sure whether the president was involved in LiAngelo’s release, he also said he is not saying that Trump was not involved. "I don't care and I don't know. If [Trump] said he helped, that's good for his mind," he said. "If you helped, you shouldn't have to say anything."

Cuomo said that he could not understand Ball’s skepticism, saying "[Trump] gets involved, the boys are released, they get to come back home - which was never a certainty until he got involved." Ball insisted that he had not taken “a shot” at the president. "I consider him a human being and the president of the United States," he said. When Cuomo pointed out that the younger Ball could have faced at least three years in prison, the elder Ball replied: “Tell Donald Trump to have a great Thanksgiving because Big Baller is."

Ball appeared unconcerned about the criminal charges leveled against his son. CNN tweeted his comments about the alleged crime: "He fessed up to it. ... It was an impulse thing, a bad decision at a bad time, that's all it was for an 18-year-old who never done anything wrong," said Ball.

According to USA Today, Ball said, "Let him do his political affairs," in reference to the president. "Let me handle my son and let's just stay in our lane." LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA basketball players were arrested by Chinese authorities after surveillance video revealed that they had lifted expensive sunglasses at a luxury shopping center during a visit to China where they were scheduled to play Georgia Tech. Because they had been detained Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill did not participate in the game, thus remaining in China to deal with the charges.

On November 15, Trump tweeted that the trio was headed toward 10 years in prison: “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!” On November 19, Trump tweeted: “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. I should have left them in jail!”

On November 20, LaVar Ball minimized Trump’s gesture. According to ESPN, when he was asked about the president’s intervention, Ball said, "Who? What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out."

As for LiAngelo Ball himself, he told a press conference on November 15, "I would like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they've provided as well." Fellow UCLA player Cody Riley said, "To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf. We really appreciate you helping us out." Jalen Hill said, "Thank you to the United States government and President Trump for your efforts to bring us home."



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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