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Trump lashes out at freed basketball players: 'I should have left them in jail'

The Guardian logo The Guardian 19/11/2017 Lois Beckett in New York

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(Video provided by: USA Today)

Days after claiming credit for ensuring that three UCLA college basketball players were released after being arrested for shoplifting in China, Donald Trump tweeted that “I should have left them in jail!” 

The US president lashed out at LaVar Ball, the father of one of the arrested players, for questioning how instrumental the president was in resolving the incident. 

Asked on ESPN Friday about Trump’s role in getting his son and two other players home, Ball said, “Who?”

Trump’s Twitter outburst marks his latest public spat with figures from the sporting world. © AFP/Getty Images Trump’s Twitter outburst marks his latest public spat with figures from the sporting world.

“What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out,” Ball said.

In response to an American father being “unaccepting of what I did for his son”, Trump tweeted that he should have left the three college students in jail in China.

Trump had previously tweeted that he wondered if the three players would thank him, saying that they “were headed for 10 years in jail!”

The three players apologized and thanked the president in a press conference this week.

“A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there,” Ball had said on ESPN Friday. He defended his son, saying, “I’ve seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn’t define him.

Trump’s social media director, Dan Scavino, attacked Ball for those remarks on Saturday, tweeting on his personal account, “if it weren’t for President @realDonaldTrump, his son would be in China for a long, long, long time!” 

The president’s Twitter feed followed with a tweet criticizing Ball early Sunday afternoon. Trump has previously used his Twitter account to attack black athletes who protested police brutality against black Americans by kneeling during the national anthem.

Last month, Trump used his official account to attack ESPN’s Jemele Hill, a prominent black sports commenter who has called the president “bigot” and “a white supremacist”.

“With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have ‘tanked,’ in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!” the president tweeted.

The White House press secretary had previously called on Hill to be fired for her criticism of the president. 

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