The three UCLA basketball players who were accused of shoplifting at three high-end stores in China publicly apologized before coach Steve Alford announced they were being suspended indefinitely. Freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley won’t be allowed to suit up, practice or travel with the team while the university continues to sort out the circumstances of the incident in Hangzhou, China. Alford didn’t specify what the indefinite suspensions mean, saying only that the three players would have to earn their way back onto the team and at some point the trio may be permitted to join team workouts, meetings and practices, but that timeline has yet to be decided.
The players were in China as part of the Pac-12′s global initiative that seeks to popularize the league’s athletic programs and universities overseas. UCLA was scheduled to play Georgia Tech on November 11th. The incident occurred when the team was given 90 minutes of free time on Nov. 6th in Hangzhou. The trio visited several stores, took items from three stores and returned to the hotel. The next day, police arrived at the hotel shared by UCLA and Georgia Tech and interviewed both teams in an attempt to identify the culprits. Police searched the players’ personal belongings and the team bus before identifying Ball, Hill and Riley. The three players were accused of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store.
The players were arrested and taken to a police station for questioning. They were later released on $2,220 bail on Nov. 8th. They had to give up their passports and agree to travel restrictions. Upon their release, they remained in a hotel at UCLA’s insistence. After their teammates beat Georgia Tech, the team moved on for the next game while the three accused players remained in Hangzhou to face their charges. Chinese law is often criticized for being harsh and the nation boasts a 99% conviction rate. Crimes like shoplifting can carry a sentence of 3 to 10 years in prison.
UCLA had been cooperating with the authorities in China following the arrested. White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, had been working with Chinese officials, UCLA coach Steve Alford, and the families of the players to help find a resolution. President Trump was in China last week as part of his 12-day tour through Asia. He said he had a long conversation with Chinese president Xi Jinping about the status of the freshmen players and asked that the matter be resolved quickly.
The Chinese authorities reduced the charges and the three players were told they could return home. They arrived back in Los Angeles after a 12 hour flight home on November 14th. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “We want to thank the president, the White House and the U.S. State Department for their efforts towards resolution.”