President Donald Trump personally spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping to get three UCLA basketball players released from Chinese custody for stealing, and now one of them has left the team, and the school, because of his suspension.
LiAngelo Ball, son of LaVar Ball, was pulled out of UCLA by his father, who believes the indefinite suspension the players received is too harsh.
“You shouldn’t hang them on the cross for this long for that,” Ball said. “A kid wants to play basketball all his life. You take that away, that’s worse than jail. Why should we as parents and adults keep jumping on them? It’s not like we’re going through life without making mistakes.”
Conflict with the school
Despite LaVar’s complaints, a suspension is a standard punishment in college athletics for crimes like stealing. And given the embarrassment the arrested players caused the team, school, and in some ways, the United States, UCLA probably had no other choice but to make sure it was a long suspension.
LaVar said he wouldn’t let “UCLA bring my boy down. … We’re not gonna sit back and let an institution tell us what to do.”
"I'm not sitting back and waiting," LaVar Ball told ESPN. "He wasn't punished this bad in China. ... We get back over here and the consequences were even stiffer than China. So basically they're in jail here."
The three players apologized for their crime and thanked Trump when they got back to America, but LaVar has refused to thank Trump for helping bring his son and teammates back to America, with the charges dropped.
Who's to blame?
LaVar blamed the coaching staff for the players stealing from a Louis Vuitton store near the team’s hotel in Hangzhou, China, saying they should have imposed stricter rules on the players.
“There’s no accountability to them?” Ball asked during an interview with CNN on Tuesday morning. “Let’s stand up to bat (for the players) and say you’re the coach. Coaches are making enough money. They’ve got to hold some accountability.”
Basketball over education?
LaVar appears to have consistent issues with schools. He pulled his youngest son, LaMelo, out of high school after clashing with his coach. LaMelo is now being home schooled.
With oldest son Lonzo struggling in his rookie NBA season for the Los Angeles Lakers, LiAngelo now without a school or place to play basketball, and LaMelo’s college future uncertain, LaVar’s words to CNN could end up as the family’s legacy.
“They gonna follow me even if it’s wrong,” Ball said of his children.