Spotlight-hungry sports dad LaVar Ball continues to refuse to thank Republican President Donald Trump for aiding the release of his son LiAngelo, a UCLA basketball player, from China after his arrest on suspicion of shoplifting — but has no problem praising Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"If I was going to thank somebody, I'd probably thank President Xi," Ball told CNN host Chris Cuomo in a bizarre, lengthy interview Monday night. "I'll thank him ... He's the president in China."
What's the background?
- Following the arrest of LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA players earlier this month, Trump said he spoke to Xi about their case during his visit to China — and after their release wondered if the players would thank him.
- After their return to the U.S., the players did thank Trump.
- But when LaVar Ball was asked about Trump's involvement, he told ESPN, "Who? What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”
- Trump hit back hard on Twitter, saying LaVar Ball "is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!”
- The White House on Monday said Trump's reference to leaving the players in China was a "rhetorical response."
Cuomo attempted several times to get LaVar Ball to explain why he refuses to thank Trump: “It just doesn't make any sense why you didn't thank him.”
Ball told the CNN host he doesn't know for sure that Trump did anything: "What did he do for my son?"
What are other reasons Ball won't thank Trump?
- He said Trump didn't travel to China specifically to get his son released.
- He said Trump didn't put up the bail for the players' release.
- He said Trump didn't take his son back to the U.S. on Air Force One.
- “I would've said thank you if he would've put him on his plane and took him home,” Ball told Cuomo. "Then I would've said, ‘Thank you, Mr. Trump for taking my boys out of China and taking them back to the U.S.’ There's a lot of room on that plane. I would have said thank you kindly to that.”
Cuomo continually tried to keep the interview on track, but Ball simply deflected his questions, spoke in circles and even tried to take command of the discussion by asking Cuomo questions of his own.
“Did you thank the doctor for bringing you into this world?” Ball asked Cuomo. “Well, you better go back and find him, ‘cause you lucky."
Cuomo eventually let Ball know his dodges were getting old.
"This is the president of the United States who spoke to the Chinese president. That's not just anybody. You know what kind of power he has. I don't get why you're hiding from this. I don't get why you're ducking this to be honest with you."
"I don't duck nobody," Ball replied.
Ball ended his commentary by hollering, “Tell Donald Trump to have a great Thanksgiving — 'cause Big Baller is!”
Here's the interview: