By Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Three UCLA basketball players apologized on Wednesday and thanked authorities and President Donald Trump for the work done to get them home from China after they were accused of shoplifting.
LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were questioned and arrested by police after they were accused of shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store next to their hotel in Hangzhou, China. If convicted, the trio would have faced 10-year sentences in China’s prison system.
Ball, Riley and Hill apologized to their team members, friends and family Wednesday at a news conference.
UCLA's Jalen Hill thanks everyone involved in helping him and his teammates return from China, including President Trump. pic.twitter.com/nUqobXtX2t— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 15, 2017
“I’d like to start off by saying sorry for stealing from the store from China. I didn’t exercise my best judgement, and I was wrong for that,” Ball said. “I also apologize to the people of China for causing them so much trouble. I’m a young man, however, that’s not an excuse for making a stupid decision.”
The trio also thanked their fellow teammates, school officials and the U.S. government for the work done to bring them back to the United States.
"To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf," Riley said. "We really appreciate you helping us out."
"To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf," UCLA basketball player Cody Riley says https://t.co/MCkbQFPeJ6 pic.twitter.com/1IPa9nUhaV— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 15, 2017
Trump on Wednesday morning asked his followers on Twitter whether they thought the trio would thank him for his intervention.
“Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!” he wrote.
Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2017
Ball, Riley and Hill were released and allowed to return to the United States on Tuesday after Trump said he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping on their behalf.
“The basketball players, by the way — I know a lot of people are asking — I will tell you, when I heard about it two days ago, I had a great conversation with President Xi,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post. “What they did was unfortunate. You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. (The Chinese) do not play games.”
UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford said on Wednesday that Ball, Riley and Hill will be “suspended indefinitely.”
"These are good young men who exercised an inexcusable lack of judgment," Alford said. “At some point, they may be permitted to join team workouts, practices and meetings, but that timeline has yet to be determined. They will have to earn their way back."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.
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