LOS ANGELES — UCLA wielded a stronger hammer than the Chinese authorities did with its three basketball players arrested for shoplifting in Hangzhou last week.
Coach Steve Alford announced Wednesday that LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley will each serve indefinite suspensions while the UCLA athletic department and office of student conduct review the incident. They will not travel with the team or suit up for home games, though they may eventually earn back the right to rejoin practices and team meetings.
“These are good young men who have exercised an inexcusable lapse of judgment and now they have to live with that,” Alford said.
“These young men are going to have to prove through their words and actions that this is not who they are and they will not let their identity be defined by this incident. I know ‘Gelo, Cody and Jalen well, and I’m confident they have already begun to use this experience as a life lesson. They’re going to have to regain the trust of this athletic department, this university and because this was such a high-profile international matter, the trust of the general public.”
Ball, Hill and Riley were detained eight days ago in Hangzhou for allegedly stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store adjacent to the hotel where the Bruins were staying. UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said the three players shoplifted from three different stores inside of the high-end shopping mall.
Chinese authorities dropped charges against the three UCLA players on Tuesday and permitted them to fly home to Los Angeles. They each made their first public comments on Wednesday via prepared statements that expressed remorse for their actions and gratitude to those who helped get them home safely and expediently.
“I’d like to start off by saying sorry for stealing from the stores in China,” said LiAngelo Ball, the younger brother of Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball and the middle son of sneaker entrepreneur LaVar Ball. “I didn’t exercise my best judgment and I was wrong for that. … I’m a young man, however, it’s not an excuse for making such a stupid decision.”
Among those who each of the players took time to thank was President Donald Trump, who intervened on their behalf by asking his Chinese counterpart for help resolving the matter. Trump had tweeted earlier Wednesday about the incident, asking whether “the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump?”
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