In a heated 20-minute interview, LaVar Ball told CNN host Chris Cuomo that he wouldn’t thank President Donald Trump for helping to bring back his son from China, ultimately coercing Cuomo into thanking him for appearing on CNN instead.
Minutes before thanking Chinese President Xi for his role in freeing his son, Ball said he “doesn’t go around saying thank you,” contesting Trump’s role in freeing his son, LiAngelo, and other UCLA basketball players arrested for shoplifting in China, where UCLA was playing an exhibition game against Georgia Tech.
Trump has called Ball “very ungrateful” for refusing to thank him for his role in freeing LiAngelo and the others, and even said he should have “left them in jail.”
In one of the less contentious exchanges, Ball downplayed the seriousness of his son’s shoplifting charge, even though it could have earned prison time for his son in China.
“It wasn’t a big deal because being raised in South Central LA, I’ve seen harsher things — I’ve seen 16 and 17-year-old kids have to go to jail for life that were my friends, doing bad things, making bad decisions, I mean doing stuff that’s harming people,” Ball said. “The way I looked at it was, OK, he shoplifted, he wasn’t physical, we returned it, he fessed up to it. ... It was an impulse thing, a bad decision at a bad time. That’s all it was, for an 18-year-old who’s never done anything wrong, never been late to class, a 4.0 student.”
He added that the crime was “victimless” and “not going without punishment.”
As the interview went on, and the more Cuomo pressed Ball to thank Trump on air, the more Ball resisted, leading to some combative exchanges between the two.
“Were you there?” Ball asked about China.
“I was not there,” Cuomo said.
“I can’t hear you. OK then. Unless you were there, then you can talk to me,” Ball shot back. “I was there! I was there in China. I know you weren’t there, though.”
Ball ultimately said, "There’s a lot of other matters to go around for the president to deal with,” asking Trump to “let me deal with my son.”
“Let’s stay in our lane,” Ball concluded.