(NEW YORK) — LaVar Ball downplayed reports that he is feuding with President Donald Trump in an interview on Monday, but he declined to thank the president for helping to get his son, LiAngelo Ball, home from China.
“You know where my boy is at right now because of me. Because I spent all that time and love for him,” LaVar Ball said in an interview with CNN Monday evening. “Don’t come in one time and think you did something for my son.”
“I don’t have to go around saying thank you to everybody,” he added.
LiAngelo Ball and two other freshman UCLA basketball players — Jalen Hill and Cody Riley — were arrested in China earlier this month after they reportedly shoplifted items from three different stores, including Louis Vuitton. The players were detained in their hotel in Hangzhou during the president’s 12-day Asian tour.
“Just because people say things, they’re supposed to be true? Like he stopped them from [serving] 10 years?” the elder Ball said Monday. “Maybe we were doing some talking with some other people before he even got there.”
“If I was going to thank someone, I would probably thank [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping],” he added.
LaVar Ball, who said his son returned the stolen merchandise and wrote an apology letter, said he did more than Trump to get the players home safely.
“I had some people that had boots on the ground that knew the situation when we first jumped on there,” Ball said. “I keep those people in mind.”
He also downplayed reports that he and Trump were engaged in a war of words.
“Why would I be at war with the most powerful man in the world? That’s my question,” LaVar Ball said. “What do you mean take on Donald Trump? Take him on for what?”
Trump indicated that he wanted recognition for his help in securing the release of the players, who he says were facing 10 years in jail, in a tweet last Wednesday.
The three players, who admitted to shoplifting in a news conference later that day, thanked Trump for his assistance in the case, but LaVar Ball has seemed to downplay Trump’s role ever since.
“Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!” Trump wrote in a tweet on Sunday.
“Shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be (5-10 years in jail), but not to father LaVar. Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful,” Trump wrote in a follow-up tweet more than five hours later.
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