Three UCLA men’s basketball players were arrested Tuesday, November 7th in Hangzhou, China for allegedly shoplifting sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel. Freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill were kept for a number of hours at a police station and questioned, but treated “with the utmost respect,” and were released on bail around 4 a.m. on Wednesday. Ball is the younger brother of NBA rookie Lonzo Ball of the L.A. Lakers, and the son of LaVar Ball, the CEO of athletic apparel maker Big Baller Brand. Three Georgia Tech players were also questioned, but were later released after authorities determined they were not involved.
The players are confined to their hotel until the legal process is over. The players could be detained for more than a month while local prosecutors determine whether to bring charges, and they could face as much as three to ten years in prison if convicted of the crime. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday the Chinese government had reported the case to the U.S. side in accordance with consular agreements. Chinese prosecutors have a nearly 100 percent conviction rate and almost all convicted defendants receive prison sentences. However, China’s interest in basketball and the Ball family may mean the players could avoid spending jail time in China and instead have to publicly apologize and make restitution to Louis Vuitton.
The Bruins arrived in Shanghai on Sunday for a week-long trip for the Pac-12 China Game, and spent Monday and Tuesday in Hangzhou to practice and to visit the campus of Pac-12 sponsor Alibaba Group, often compared to Amazon. Coach Steve Alford said the three players will not play against Georgia Tech in their Friday matchup in Shanghai. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott commented, “[w]e are very disappointed by any situation that detracts from the positive student-athlete educational and cultural experience that this week is about. Whether in the United States or abroad, we expect our student-athletes to uphold the highest standards. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”