LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) — President Donald Trump started off his first day of Thanksgiving vacation Wednesday by resuming his taunts of LaVar Ball, the father of a UCLA basketball player LiAngelo, who was detained for shoplifting in China, calling him an “ungrateful fool” and a “poor man’s version of Don King.”
In a series of tweets fired off before dawn, the president complained yet again that LaVar hasn’t given him credit for the release of his son and two other UCLA basketball players after they were accused of shoplifting while in China for a basketball game.
Tweeting from his Florida vacation home, Trump said: “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.”
“Too bad! LaVar is just a poor man’s version of Don King, but without the hair,” he said, referencing the flamboyant boxing promoter whom Trump once saluted as “a phenomenal person” despite a conviction for manslaughter.
Trump also warned that Ball “could have spent the next 5 to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China, but no NBA contract to support you” had it not been for his intervention.
“But remember LaVar, shoplifting is NOT a little thing. It’s a really big deal, especially in China,” he wrote.
A shoplifting sentence in China can carry up to 10 years in prison. Trump had previously said he should have left all three players in jail because LaVar Ball hadn’t thanked him publicly for his intervention.
LaVar Ball, whose eldest son, Lonzo plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, has repeatedly minimized Trump’s involvement in winning the players’ release, telling CNN earlier this week: “If I feel nobody did anything, I don’t have to go around saying thank you to everybody.”
LaVar Ball told CBS2 Monday he doesn’t think he’s in a feud with President Trump.
“Me and you are having a conversation,” Ball said to CBS2 reporter Tina Patel. “Me and Trump ain’t having no conversation. I don’t have a conversation with someone over Twitter.”
The president also retweeted a post from Joey Mannarino, a U.S.-born radio host living in London, who echoed the statement: “The ungratefulness is something I’ve never seen before. If you get someone’s son out of prison, he should be grateful to you. Period. I don’t care. If Hillary got my kid out of prison, as much as I hate the woman, I’d thank her corrupt ass.”
Freshmen LiAngelo, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were detained Nov. 7 on suspicion of shoplifting from three high-end stores, including a Louis Vuitton, next to the UCLA team’s hotel in Hangzhou while on a trip to play Georgia Tech in Shanghai for their season-opener.
The incident began when local police were called to the hotel where both teams were staying and inspected UCLA’s bus as players waited to depart for practice.
Police interviewed players from both teams before clearing three players from Georgia Tech. Ball, Riley and Hill were taken to the police station in Hangzhou, where they were kept for a number of hours before being charged. They were later released on bail.
The players then appeared to receive uncommonly gentle treatment. They were placed under house arrest at the luxury hotel and were not permitted to play in in the Georgia Tech game Nov. 10.
During the detention, LaVar — who was in Shanghai shooting his family’s reality show and promoting his Big Baller Brand — did not appear to concerned about the shoplifting allegations. The day after the arrest, on Nov. 8, LaVar hosted a promotional event in Shanghai for his Big Baller Brand. A smiling LaVar and his youngest son LaMelo posed for photos and signed autographs for fans at a BBB pop-up shop.
The three players were eventually released without charges and allowed to fly back to the U.S. on Nov. 14. The day after their arrival, the three thanked President Trump for his involvement in their release at a news conference.
“I would also like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help they provided as well,” LiAngelo said.
Just prior to the Nov. 15 news conference, Trump had tweeted, “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump. They were headed for 10 years in jail!”
UCLA has since suspended the three players indefinitely from the team.
The players’ release coincided with President Trump’s 12-day Asia trip. On his return to the U.S. following the trip, Trump had told reporters aboard Air Force One that Chinese President Xi Jinping was helping out in the case.
“President Xi has been terrific on that subject,” Trump said at the time. “But that was not a good subject. That was not something that should have happened.”
Meanwhile, another famous LeVar has gotten unintentionally and reluctantly dragged into the fray. Actor LeVar Burton, best known for “Reading Rainbow” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” has been receiving hate tweets for months from people mistaking him for LaVar Ball.
Regarding the case of mistaken identity, Burton told Bleacher Report back in March: “You know what, he’s (Ball) kind of like Trump. He’ll say anything and then double down on it and defy you to believe him.”
“I wonder how Mr. Ball got his name,” Burton went on. “Was he named after me?”
The hate mail mistakenly directed at Burton has amped-up in recent days, prompting Burton Tuesday to tweet:
“One of many sleights I am having to endure these days. Thanks!”
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)