President Trump personally asked Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help resolve the case of three UCLA basketball players who were arrested for shoplifting while in China for a tournament last week, according to a report Monday.
Trump had raised the issue with Xi at a dinner held during the US leader's November 8-10 state visit to Beijing.
They did not travel home with the rest of the team, but the Wall Street Journal reported that the young men were seen at a Chinese airport Tuesday night checking into a flight bound for Los Angeles. "We also want to acknowledge UCLA's significant efforts on behalf of their student-athletes".
UCLA, one of the most storied names in USA college basketball with 11 men's NCAA championships, won Saturday's game in Shanghai 63-60 without the three players.
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They did not fly home with the team, and ESPN has reported that authorities have surveillance footage and that the players could be required to remain in Hangzhou for a week or two. It's unclear what direct role Trump played in the players being freed, but the president told reporters in Asia he had a "great conversation" with Xi Jinping about the players.
Initial reports suggested the players could remain in China for up to two months, depending on whether Chinese authorities made a decision to pursue an arrest, which would spark an investigation.
The players were released on bail last Wednesday and have been staying at hotel in Hangzhou, awaiting a decision from authorities that could range from release to fines to years of detainment. UCLA's next game is Wednesday against Central Arkansas.
The news of Trump's involvement was greeted with a range of surprise, outrage and opinions about the Ball family by people weighing in on social media. The elder Ball played one season in Westwood and left early for the National Basketball Association draft. "They do not play games". He spent some time promoting the family's Big Baller Brand of athletic shoes with his youngest son, LaMelo, while his middle son was detained.