Trump asked Chinese leader to help resolve case involving UCLA basketball players

Security guards walk through the hotel in Hangzhou, China, where three UCLA basketball players are staying as they await legal proceedings on accusations of shoplifting.
(Gaochao Zhang / For The Times)

President Trump has asked China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to help resolve the case involving three UCLA basketball players being detained at a hotel in Hangzhou for allegedly shoplifting.

China is “working on it right now,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday afternoon, just as his plane was about to take off from Manila, the final leg of his 12-day trip to Asia.

Trump made the request while in Beijing last week before departing Friday for Vietnam and the Philippines. He asked for Xi’s help in settling the case quickly and ensuring that the players, all freshmen, were treated fairly, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told The Times.


LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill emerged publicly for the first time Monday and a school athletics official said they were “doing fine,” though both their legal case and their standing as part of UCLA’s basketball team remained unclear. It has been one week since the trio was first questioned about the alleged theft of designer sunglasses from an upscale store near the team’s hotel.

A UCLA spokesperson declined to address whether the players would face disciplinary action from the school upon their return, nor to say who was paying for the players’ extended stay at the Hyatt Regency, where standard rooms were commanding about $278 per night on the hotel’s website. Athletic director Dan Guerrero was not made available for comment.

The rest of the Bruins returned to Los Angeles on Saturday from a weeklong trip that concluded in Shanghai with a 63-60 victory over Georgia Tech in the Pac-12 China Game.

Ball, Riley and Hill were wearing Bruins workout gear as they exited the hotel health club Monday and lumbered toward the elevators. They were accompanied by Chris Carlson, an associate athletic director who oversees the basketball team.

“We’re doing fine,” Carlson said politely while the players slipped into the elevator behind him. Ball wore brown headphones draped around his neck.

Chinese authorities have permitted them to remain where the team initially stayed, a ritzy hotel featuring evening jazz performances and a glass-enclosed pool.


Ball’s father and younger brother also remained in China to film their Facebook reality show “Ball in the Family,” though they were not staying with LiAngelo. LaVar Ball, the vocal father of the UCLA freshman and Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, said Monday in a tweet that he and his youngest son LaMelo were in Hong Kong to market his $495 Big Baller Brand shoes.

The UCLA players are suspected of stealing from a Louis Vuitton outlet around the corner from the hotel, where some sunglasses go for $740.

The Bruins visited China to play in a game sponsored by Alibaba, an e-commerce giant based in Hangzhou. Alibaba has assumed that role for the last three years and recently acquired broadcast rights to Pac-12 games including basketball and football.

Alibaba spokesman Robert Christie said the company was satisfied overall with this year’s game. He referred further inquiries to UCLA.

Hangzhou police, whose guarded headquarters is located less than a mile from where the suspected shoplifting occurred, did not answer calls.

Back in Los Angeles, the rest of the Bruins prepared for the team’s home opener Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion against Central Arkansas. UCLA is ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press media poll.

Bennett reported from Manila; DeButts from Hangzhou, China. Times correspondent Jessica Meyers contributed to this article from Beijing. Staff writer Ben Bolch contributed from Los Angeles.


12:30 a.m. Nov. 14: This article was updated with a comment from Trump about the athletes.

This article was originally published at 5:35 p.m. Nov. 13.