UCLA Basketball Players Freed Before Trump Intervened: Report

An ESPN investigation found Trump wasn't involved with the students' release.

President Donald Trump may not have had a role in the release of three California college basketball players arrested in China.

ESPN reported Friday that the three University of California, Los Angeles basketball players, who were allegedly caught shoplifting in China, were already scheduled to return home by the time Chief of Staff John Kelly said the White House was getting involved.

LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were in China for a game at the time of their arrests.

To recreate a timeline of the arrests, ESPN’s reporters spent three months conducting interviews with sources close to the team who were in China at the time of the incident.

“The situation was already resolved by the time we heard about Trump’s involvement,” one source told ESPN. “That’s not to take away from the fact that he got involved, but the players already had their passports back and their flights booked to go home Tuesday night when Gen. Kelly called the players.”

Earlier reports claimed the basketball players were released after Trump spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Trump reportedly brought the issue up with Xi at a dinner during a visit to Beijing in November.

The incident sparked a feud between Trump and LiAngelo Ball’s father, LaVar Ball.

In an interview with CNN, Lavar said he’d rather thank Xi than Trump. He also expressed skepticism that Trump orchestrated his son’s release.

“Did he help the boys get out? I don’t know,” Ball said during the interview. “If I was going to thank somebody, I’d probably thank President Xi. He’s the president in China. Somebody can make a suggestion and somebody can do something.”

During their feud, Trump called Ball “very ungrateful” and claimed he was not taking his son’s shoplifting charges seriously enough.

Read ESPN’s reported timeline of events involving the UCLA players here.