President Trump remains hopeful his talks with China will make a difference in allowing three UCLA athletes to go home, despite the seriousness of their shoplifting arrests.
Trump said he made a personal appeal to President Xi Jinping to expedite the release of freshmen Cody Riley, Jalen Hill and LiAngelo Ball after learning of their arrest Sunday.
“What they did was unfortunate,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One.
“You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. They do not play games,” he said of Chinese authorities.
Police accused the Bruins trio of stealing from the Louis Vuitton store next their basketball team’s hotel in Hangzhou. The players were forced to remain in China as their teammates returned to California after beating Georgia Tech 63-60 in Shanghai on Saturday.
CNN reports the players could face anywhere from three to 10 years in prison if convicted of grand larceny.
Trump praised his dialogue with Xi in the thick of his 12-day tour through Asia, adding that his government is “working on it right now” to have the players released.
“And hopefully everything is going to work out,” Trump added during his return flight to the U.S.
Surveillance footage reportedly showed Ball, Hill and Riley stealing from three stores, including the luxury retailer, before their opening game.
Ball’s brother is Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball.