Locked Up Abroad – UCLA Basketball Edition

ESPN – Three UCLA men’s basketball players — including LiAngelo Ball, the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball — were released on bail early Wednesday morning in Hangzhou, China, after being arrested for allegedly shoplifting Tuesday afternoon, a source told ESPN.

The three players, a group that also includes freshmen Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, were questioned about allegedly stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou, where the Bruins had been staying before leaving for Shanghai on Wednesday…

Ball, Riley and Hill were taken to the police station in Hangzhou, where they were kept for a number of hours. UCLA representatives, including coach Steve Alford, were at the police station along with the players.

Ball, Riley and Hill were released around 4 a.m. Wednesday and were staying at a luxury hotel in Hangzhou along with a UCLA representative, according to a source. They are being required by Hangzhou police to remain at the hotel until the legal process is over, the source said.

How is this story not front page news? No mention of this story on the New York Times homepage or even the Los Angeles Times homepage, and just a small link on the ESPN homepage. Three American college basketball players were locked up overnight in China. One of the players that was locked up is a member of the Ball family, the Kardashians of basketball. And oh yeah, the President of the United States just happens to be in China at the same time. This has all the makings of international incident.

It will be a while before all the details about what happened in the Louis Vuitton store come out but it’s unlikely that this case will play out like Jameis Winston crab leg incident. It was widely reported yesterday that the three players could face up to 10 years in prison, if convicted. A plea bargain including community service is probably not on the table.

Here’s what the U.S. Department of State website has to say about the Chinese legal system:

The Chinese legal system can be opaque and the interpretation and enforcement of local laws arbitrary. The judiciary does not enjoy independence from political influence. U.S. citizens traveling or residing in China should be aware of varying levels of scrutiny to which you will be subject from Chinese local law enforcement and state security.

While China might not be North Korea, it’s not Canada either. Was this not fully explained to the players before they got on the plane? They’re out of jail for the time being but even if they are not charged or convicted they might not get out of China for a while. Season 2 of Ball in the Family could be set in China.

On a side note, hopefully the NCAA will be forced to answer why they thought it was a good idea for a college basketball game to be played in China in the first place. Not every school should have to schedule games like the Ivy League, which only schedules conference match ups for Fridays and Saturdays, but it would be nice if they at least didn’t openly mock the “student-athlete” system. A week-long trip to another continent in the middle of the semester can’t be great for a student-athlete’s studies. Especially if they get locked up by a communist government.



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