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Arrested UCLA Basketball Players Admit Guilt and Apologize; Suspended Indefinitely

Alford says the players will have to earn their way back.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA Press Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This morning, LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill each admitted to stealing from stores during last week’s trip to China.

During this morning’s news conference, each of the players admitted what they did and offered apologies for their actions.

Cody Riley started things off. Riley said:

I want to start off by saying how embarrassed and ashamed I am for disappointing my family, my teammates, my coaches and the entire UCLA community. I feel terrible and I am sorry to everybody I have let down. With that being said, I take full responsibility for the mistake I have made: shoplifting. I know that this goes beyond me letting me school down. I have let the entire country down.

Riley, then, thanked everyone involved throughout the entire ordeal from President Trump to Dan Guerrero and the coaching staff to Associate AD Chris Carlson who stayed behind to help the players.

Riley continued:

I’ve been looking forward to being a UCLA Bruin since I was young. The alumni here have set such a high standard for both academically [sic] and athletically [sic]. And, as a UCLA student-athlete, I am disappointed that I failed to live up to that. I can only hope that my actions, my words, my hard work in the weeks to come will prove to my coaches, my teammates and our fans that I am more capable of meeting that high standard. Away from the court, I will work especially hard in the classroom to show that I can be an outstanding representative of this incredible university, a place that is so important to many people around the world.

Riley concluded by saying:

I can assure you I will never do anything again to jeopardize UCLA’s reputation as well as my own.

LiAngelo Ball was the next player to speak. LiAngelo started by stating:

I’d like to start off by saying I’m sorry for stealing from the stores in China. I apologize to my family, my coaches, my teammates and UCLA for letting so many people down. I also apologize to the people of China for causing them so much trouble. I am a young man; however, it’s not an excuse for making a really stupid decision. I don’t feel sorry for myself and I’ve learned my lesson from this big mistake and I am 110% sure that I will not make a bad decision like this one again. I’d also like everyone to know that this does not define who I am. My family raised me better than that and I am going to make myself a better person from here on out.

He expressed respect and thanks to the Chinese police as well as thanks to Chris Carlson and Doug Erickson for their assistance. He also thanked the president for his assistance. Ball concluded his statement by saying:

I am grateful to be back home and I will never make a mistake like this again. I am extremely sorry for those I let down, but I’m also very thankful for the help, love and support that they provided and I take full responsibility for my actions and I’m sorry.

Next up was Jalen Hill. Hill offered the following:

First off, I would like to apologize to all the fans who support UCLA because I feel like my actions have hurt them the most. It hurts me because I can see the pain I caused them. I apologize to my teammates, my coaches and my family because of how much negative attention that I have put on them that they do not deserve. I’m sorry for shoplifting. What I did was stupid. There’s just no other way to put it and I am not that type of person. I hope that this mistake will not define me as a person, but it shows that I have messed up and can learn from it. I don’t want to be known for this dumb mistake. I want to be known for my respectfulness and my love and passion for the game of basketball. This event has taught me about it and has changed me in a way I can’t explain. I have so much more respect for the people around me from our coaches and staff to the fans who live for UCLA. I have also strengthened my relationship with God throughout this time. Without Him, I would be nothing. To all the fans out there watching, I hope you can forgive me. I hope that you can forgive my stupid, childish actions. I have learned my lesson and I hope that I can earn back the love and support that our passionate fans bring to the program.

He also thanks expressed to everyone who assisted them through the ordeal, the Chinese police, the Pac-12, the UCLA community, President Trump and the US Government.

Here’s the full video of the players’ statements, courtesy of UCLA Athletics.

The players then left the podium and UCLA Basketball coach Steve Alford addressed the media. Alford said:

We are grateful that they’ve safely returned home and been able to reconnect with the family, their friends and their teammates. I can’t thank enough the incredible folks here at UCLA, at the Pac-12 and, even, President Trump and his administration, for the non-stop effort to resolve the situation.

He also offered thanks to everyone involved in helping bring the players home. Alford then addressed the consequences which the players will face now that they are back home in Westwood. Alford said:

As a coach, you recruit these young men for a long time and you get to know them very, very well during the process. These are good young men who have exercised an inexcusable lapse of judgment. And, now they have to live with that. They have let a lot of people down in the process. I’m extremely disappointed in their actions. You just heard them apologize. I would, again, like to apologize, on their behalf, to the Chancellor, to Dan and to the Bruin family. These young men are going to have to prove their words and actions that this isn’t who they are.

I know Gelo, Cody and Jalen well and I’m confident that they have already begun to use this experience as a life lesson. They are going to have to regain the trust of this athletic department and this university and, because this was such a high-profile international matter, the trust of the general public. Trust is earned. It isn’t just given. These three young men will remain suspended indefinitely from our program as we work through the review process with the University’s Office of Student Conduct. During that indefinite suspension, they will not travel with the team, nor will they suit up for home games. At some point, they may be permitted to join team workouts, practices and meetings, but that timeline has yet to be determined. They will have to earn their way back. They will cooperate fully with the University review of this matter and will use this time to focus on their academics. My expectation is that they will work hard to demonstrate why they deserve to be part of this program.

I would like to express my gratitude to the other young men in our program, who represented UCLA the right way during our trip and who were able to put aside the distractions to travel, learn and enjoy a foreign country, while also defeating a very good Georgia Tech basketball team. The experience was memorable and the Chinese people were such gracious hosts everywhere that we went.

As the head coach of our program, I have a responsibility to move us forward and we will do just that by focusing on basketball and the young men suiting up tonight against Central Arkansas.

Here’s the video of UCLA Basketball Coach Steve Alford’s statement, also courtesy of UCLA Athletics.

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero was the final speaker at the press conference. Guerrero opened by saying:

As Steve mentioned, we are very disappointed in the conduct of our three student-athletes. On what should have been a positive, memorable trip for our entire team and for our university, their irresponsible actions overshadowed that opportunity. They have taken the first step here today, apologizing for the hurt and pain they have caused the UCLA community, and accepting full responsibility. In my meeting with them in Hangzhou, their expression of remorse, regret, sadness and embarrassment, was as genuine as it gets. They know they made a huge mistake and as you can see, they are deeply sorry for it. To echo Steve, it is my hope, that these three young men are not defined by this one instance, but rather by their efforts to restore our trust in them. Their actions in China are contrary to the true Bruin values of UCLA and UCLA Athletics, and, quite frankly, are unacceptable.

Guerrero thanked everyone involved in helping get UCLA through the situation. In addition to thanking President Trump and White House Chief of Staff Kelly, he also apologized to the Alibaba Group, the Pac-12 Conference, the people of China, Georgia Tech, and the UCLA community “for the disruption and the negative attention the students' actions brought upon this extraordinary trip.”

Guerrero then shared more information than has been provided to date about the incident itself. He explained:

Let me start by saying that prior to leaving the United States, and again while in China, Coach Alford met with the team and reminded all of them of the expectations and responsibilities that go along with representing UCLA. He and his staff did this as a means to be proactive in trying to prevent a negative situation of any kind.

On Monday, November 6th, the first full day of the trip, the group had a phenomenal experience visiting the Alibaba campus, where the team had the opportunity to tour the campus and to hear from Joe Tsai, the co-founder and executive vice chairman of the Alibaba group. Later that evening, the students were given 90 minutes of "free time" to explore the town of Hangzhou, or simply to relax. Gelo, Jalen and Cody used that time to visit several stores that were adjacent to the hotel. It was at this time that they took items from three of those stores, without paying for them. They then returned to the team hotel with those items.

The following morning, November 7th, police arrived at the team hotel and began to interview several members of both the Georgia Tech and UCLA basketball teams, as they attempted to identify which students were involved in the thefts. In addition to interviewing several students, police also searched bags both in the hotel and on the team bus. Within a few hours, they had identified Gelo, Jalen and Cody as the likely suspects, and escorted them to a local police station. Associate Head Coach Duane Broussard and PAC-12 Associate Commissioner for basketball Gloria Nevarez were able to go with them, while Steve Alford and Associate Athletic Director Chris Carlson followed shortly thereafter.

I was notified of the arrests by our UCLA personnel on the ground while I was mid-flight to Shanghai. The Chancellor, the UCLA Office of Legal Affairs, and other appropriate University personnel and UC administrators were quickly brought into the loop, and began to work on securing both legal counsel and information, which, at that time, was still sparse.

Following their arrests, the students remained in custody, undergoing questioning by police, before being released on bail early in the morning of November 8th. The total bail amount was approximately $2,200 U.S. As part of the conditions of their release, the students had to surrender their passports and agree to travel restrictions. They were NOT required to remain in the hotel, though we made that decision out of an abundance of caution and respect for the process. The bail in question has since been refunded by the Chinese authorities.

The UCLA Office of Legal Affairs, in concert with the PAC-12 Conference and legal experts based in China, worked to identify outside local counsel in Hangzhou to represent the three students. The University then requested and subsequently received authorization from the parents of the students to engage legal representation on their behalf.

Regarding the issue of the expenses that were incurred over the last nine days, UCLA provided the necessary resources to secure the timely release and safe return of the student-athletes. We now have the task of working to reconcile who is ultimately responsible for the costs incurred, in addition to addressing any NCAA implications.

When the rest of the team departed for Shanghai to continue the trip in preparation for the game, Chris Carlson and Gloria Nevarez stayed behind in Hangzhou with the three students.

Over the ensuing days, our staff and students fully cooperated with the local authorities, who were gracious throughout this entire process, in an attempt to resolve the matter. I made a visit to their hotel on Friday to check on everyone and to reassure the students that many people were working on their behalf and doing everything possible to allow them to return home. From those meetings, I was confident that the students were safe and being treated with the highest level of respect.

On Saturday, when the rest of the team and traveling party returned home, two UCLA administrative staff members, Chris Carlson and Doug Erickson, remained in China with the student-athletes. We left with the belief that substantial progress was being made to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

To that end, on Tuesday in Shanghai, the local authorities confirmed that the student-athletes could leave the country. They did so at 9 p.m. Shanghai time/ 5 a.m. Pacific time on Tuesday and arrived at LAX last night around 5 p.m. Pacific Time.

While the charges against the students were ultimately withdrawn, Jalen, Cody and Gelo did admit to breaking the law. As Steve noted, the three student-athletes have been suspended indefinitely from the men's basketball program as we continue to review the matter, in collaboration with the University's Office of Student Conduct, as we do in all cases of student-athlete misconduct. We will work together and prudently to come to resolution on this matter.

I know there are still questions to be answered. It is my hope that in the coming weeks, as we learn more, we will be able to share additional information with all of you.

As difficult as this time period has been for all of us who love UCLA so dearly, I am confident in the resiliency of the UCLA community and the Bruin Family, and we will move forward, together. Thank you.

Here’s the video of Guerrero’s statement, also courtesy of UCLA Athletics.

All things considered, I think Dan Guerrero and Steve Alford appear to be handling this the correct way, at least for now. Suspending the players indefinitely appears to be the right way to go for the time being. It appears that the UCLA administration is not taking this matter lightly and that they are not going to just give these players a slap on the wrist, at least, not right now.

Of course, that could change if they are coincidentally reinstated for the start of Pac-12 Conference play. But, I have to think that Guerrero has also heard from Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott regarding this, given that this occurred during the Pac-12’s marquee early season basketball event.

Personally, after hearing what I heard today, I don’t believe that Ball, Riley or Hill will play this season. And, there is a good chance that one or more of them may never wear a UCLA uniform again.

But, since the players have admitted that they did shoplift on the trip, a severe penalty is definitely appropriate.

Go Bruins.