President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at three UCLA basketball players arrested earlier this month for shoplifting in China, calling the three “ungrateful” for his intervention in the international incident.
The three athletes —LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill — returned early last week to the United States. They avoided prosecution that could have resulted in them spending up to 10 years in jail, though some legal experts said they would have likely not have been severely punished even without Trump stepping in.
After Ball’s outspoken father, Lavar Ball, downplayed Trump’s role in the players’ release, the president took to Twitter, asking if they thought to thank him.
“Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal,” Trump tweeted. “I should have left them in jail!”
Trump, who was on a state visit to China when the incident occurred, reportedly asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help resolve the issue.
All three athletes ultimately expressed their gratitude during a Nov. 15 press conference, but it wasn’t enough for Trump.
“Shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be (5-10 years in jail), but not to father LaVar,” he said in a later tweet Sunday. “Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful!”