Trump urges basketball players released by China to thank him

US President Donald Trump attends a joint press conference with his Vietnamese counterpart Tran Dai Quang at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on November 12, 2017. Photo: LUONG THAI LINH / POOL / AFP

WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump on Wednesday prodded three US college basketball players to publicly thank him for their repatriation from China.

Tweeting after his return from almost two weeks in Asia, Trump championed his role in urging China President Xi Jinping to secure the trio's release from shoplifting charges.

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Trump had personally asked Xi to intervene to free UCLA players LiAngelo Ball - the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie star Lonzo Ball - and teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, who were arrested last Tuesday in Hangzhou.

ESPN reported that they were nabbed on suspicion of stealing from a Louis Vuitton store and later freed on bail but ordered to remain in the picturesque Chinese city.


"Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!" Trump mused.

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The three players are due to give a press conference in California later on Wednesday.

Trump has had an uneasy relationship with prominent black athletes, criticizing individuals in the NBA and NFL for protesting before games or suggesting they may not visit the White House while he is in office.


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