LaVar Ball’s take on President Trump lacks understanding of China’s legal system

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LaVar Ball doesn’t understand the larger circumstances of his son’s and two other UCLA basketball players’ detainment in China on suspicion of shoplifting.

The elder Ball downplayed President Donald Trump’s role in helping free his son LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley, according to an ESPN story posted Friday.

Trump fired back on Sunday in a tweet. It’s the third time the president has tweeted about the arrests this week.

A simple Google search shows China – along with North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and Laos – is one of five Communist countries among about 195 total in the world.

Otto Warmbier illustrates an example of what could have happened to the three players in a communist country for committing what is considered a petty crime in the U.S.

Warmbier was an American University student visiting North Korea as a tourist in January 2016.

He was arrested and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment with hard labor after being convicted for attempted theft of a propaganda poster from his hotel. Warmbier was also forced to read a propaganda statement saying he had been treated fairly.

After a 15-month imprisonment in North Korea, Warmbier returned to Cincinnati on June 16, 2017, in a coma. He died six days after his arrival at 22 years old.

Certainly, the U.S. has different relations with China than North Korea. However, an American citizen does not have the same rights in a foreign country – let alone a communist state – compared to that person’s rights in domestic territory.

Warmbier is a perfect example of worst-case scenario. Ohio lawmakers are still discussing what happened to Warmbier five months later.

Here’s a timeline of what happened to the UCLA basketball players:

Nov. 7 – LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were arrested and questioned about stealing from high-end stores, including sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou, where the Bruins stayed before leaving for Shanghai to face Georgia Tech.

Nov. 11 – UCLA beat Georgia Tech 63-60 in each team’s season opener. The youngest Ball, Hill and Riley did not play in the game.

The UCLA men’s basketball team traveled back to Los Angeles without Ball, Hill and Riley. The three players remained in detainment at the hotel.

Nov. 12 – President Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Vietnam, where Trump raised the case of the detained basketball players.

Nov. 14 – Ball, Hill and Riley returned to Los Angeles. The three did not comment when swarmed by media members after landing.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott issued a statement thanking the president, White House and U.S. State Department.

Nov. 15 – In a morning tweet, Trump asked if the previously detained UCLA players would thank him for his role in helping with their release.

UCLA held a news conference in the afternoon where Ball, Riley and Hill each thanked the president and U.S. government for helping secure their release. The school suspended the three players indefinitely, meaning the trio won’t be allowed to suit up, practice or travel with the team.

Nov. 16 – President Trump tweeted again about the players’ detainment, asking the players to thank Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump also warned the players to be careful.

Nov. 17 – LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo Ball, downplayed the president’s role in freeing the players. Here are LaVar Ball’s full comments to ESPN:

“Who?” LaVar Ball told ESPN on Friday, when asked about Trump’s involvement in the matter. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

“As long as my boy’s back here, I’m fine,” LaVar Ball told ESPN. “I’m happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, ‘They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.’ I’m from L.A. I’ve seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn’t define him. Now if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that’s a different thing.

“Everybody gets stuck on the negativity of some things and they get stuck on them too long. That’s not me. I handle what’s going on and then we go from there.”

Nov. 19 – President Trump tweeted about his role in helping free the UCLA players for the third time this week. Trump said because LaVar Ball was “unaccepting” for his role in freeing the players, he should have left the three UCLA players in imprisonment.


LaVar Ball’s comments are absurd

“What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing.”

Trump went on a 12-day trip to Asia – the longest trip by an American leader in 25 years – to discuss international trade and to rally Asian countries for how to deal with the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

Thursday marked two months since North Korea’s last nuclear missile test. However, 200 North Korean workers died because of a tunnel collapse at a nuclear test site on Oct. 31.

“Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

Your son, his two teammates and the Pac-12 commissioner acknowledged Trump, the White House and U.S. State Department helped in some sort of capacity.

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“’They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.’ I’m from L.A. I’ve seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses.

Certainly, worse crimes have been committed. Again, a U.S. citizen does not have the same rights abroad as he or she does in domestic territory.

“My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn’t define him. Now if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that’s a different thing.”

People make mistakes, and can learn from them. However, what does LiAngelo Ball’s age have to do with what happened? Shouldn’t he know better as a public figure, and younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball?

Why steal a pair of sunglasses when your family is loaded? The Ball family makes millions from the Lakers, the Big Baller Brand and their Facebook reality show “Ball in the Family” among other endorsements.

Media members should not take LaVar Ball seriously anymore because he’s not credible.

This is the same guy who claimed he could beat Michael Jordan – the sport’s best player ever and possibly the greatest athlete ever – in one-on-one despite averaging 2.2 points per game in one season at Washington State in 1986-1987. LaVar Ball also claimed Lonzo Ball was better than Stephen Curry before his oldest son even played in an NBA game.

Curry is a two-time league MVP and a two-time NBA champion. Lonzo Ball isstruggling through his rookie season for a 6-10 Lakers team.

While LaVar Ball is the CEO of the Big Baller Brand, if we’re going to give him a voice, why haven’t we heard from the parents of other two UCLA players?

Why does President Trump need the UCLA basketball players’ and LaVar Ball’s approval?  He’s the leader of the free world! Why does Trump need the satisfaction of three amateur players and one of their fathers?

Four questions I have:

  1. Isn’t it Trump’s job to try to help free the UCLA players in this circumstance?
  2. Does LaVar Ball make the same comments under someone’s else’s administration in the White House, let’s say President Barack Obama?
  3. Does any other president or world leader ask multiple times for thanks on social media in this scenario?
  4. Does the media’s coverage change if a different president or world leader assisted in helping return the UCLA players?

UCLA’s indefinite suspension of the three players won’t be too harsh

Several other collegiate athletes have done much worse than petty theft and remained on their team’s respective roster.

Also, if the university decided to kick off LiAngelo Ball from the team, it would likely reopen the recruiting of LaMelo Ball, the youngest of the three brothers.

LaVar Ball and others believe LaMelo will be better than LiAngelo and Lonzo. LaMelo Ball committed to UCLA after receiving a scholarship offer at 13 years old.

Simply put, the Ball family gives UCLA notoriety no one else can.

Mark Bergin is a digital journalist with 10News WTSP. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter and Instagram. You can also email him at


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