LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) — President Donald Trump is urging three suspended UCLA basketball players to thank Chinese President Xi Jinping for their freedom following a shoplifting incident while they were in China.

Trump had tweeted early Wednesday: “Do you think the three UCLA basketball p layers will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”

At a news conference a few hours later, the trio apologized Wednesday and publicly thanked the president, who was on a tour of Asia last week, for his administration’s help.

“To President Trump, and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf. We really appreciate you helping us out,” Cody Riley said.

On Thursday morning, the president sent more tweets, urging the three players to also thank the Chinese president.

During their statements, the players had expressed thanks and appreciation to the Chinese government and the local police force for their professionalism and for treating them well, but did not specifically thank the Chinese president.

3 UCLA Players Apologize For Shoplifting Scandal

Freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Riley were detained in Hangzhou for questioning following allegations of shoplifting last week before the Bruins beat Georgia Tech in their season-opening game in Shanghai. The rest of the UCLA team returned home Saturday.

Athletic director Dan Guerrero said the incident occurred when the team was given 90 minutes of free time on Nov. 6 in Hangzhou. He said the three visited several stores and took items from three stores.

Coach Steve Alford announced Wednesday the players were being suspended indefinitely and said they would have to earn their way back onto the team.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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