President Donald Trump on Wednesday escalated his feud with the father of one of the three UCLA basketball players who was detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting, calling him a “fool.”
LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo Ball, has brushed off Trump’s role in securing his son’s release from China last week, provoking a fiery response from the president.
“It wasn’t the White House, it wasn’t the State Department, it wasn’t father LaVar’s so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence – IT WAS ME,” Trump tweeted early Wednesday. “Too bad! LaVar is just a poor man’s version of Don King, but without the hair.”
Trump then slammed LaVar Ball, 50, as “ungrateful” — the same word he used in a Twitter tirade on Sunday in which he said he “should have left” the players in jail. (The White House later said those tweets were a “rhetorical response” to Ball’s criticisms.)
“LaVar, you could have spent the next 5 to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China, but no NBA contract to support you,” Trump tweeted. “But remember LaVar, shoplifting is NOT a little thing. It’s a really big deal, especially in China. Ungrateful fool!”
LaVar Ball, known for his bombastic public persona, has refused to thank Trump, telling CNN on Monday: “How’d he help? If he helped, I would say thank you.”
LiAngelo Ball, a freshman guard for the UCLA Bruins, and two teammates, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley, were detained in Hangzhou, about 100 miles southwest of Shanghai, on shoplifting charges a day before Trump arrived in China during his Asia tour. Trump has said he raised the players’ detention with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Beijing.
The players returned to the United States last week. They have been indefinitely suspended from the team. All three thanked Trump at a news conference last Wednesday — just hours after the president wondered on Twitter whether they would “say thank you.”
The high-profile Ball family is well acquainted with the national limelight. “Ball in the Family,” a reality series on Facebook, chronicles the life and times of LaVar Ball, chief executive of the sports apparel company Big Baller Brand.
His two other sons are also rising stars in basketball: Lonzo is a point guard with the Los Angeles Lakers and LaMelo is on the team at Chino Hills High School, east of Los Angeles.