President Donald Trump’s reported involvement in expediting the release of UCLA Men’s Basketball players LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley in a Chinese shoplifting incident, was arguably one of the few non-deplorable things he’s done while in office. It didn’t offset repeated attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act or lobbing paper towels at hurricane battered citizens, but it was something.
There’s still no definitive proof that Trump intervened on behalf of the three men after they were detained in China. And once LiAngelo Ball’s outspoken father LaVar pointed out as much, it appears that Trump couldn’t get his tiny hands near a smartphone fast enough to tweet a response.
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2017
“Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting [sic] of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “I should have left them in jail!”
The tweet came in response to the elder Ball’s questioning of Trump’s involvement to free the three players.
“Who?” Ball asked ESPN’s Arash Markazi when asked about Trump’s involvement. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”
Trump appeared to want some smoke, and Twitter was happy to oblige. That’s generally what happens when a sitting president makes remarks about leaving American citizens in jail overseas for not showing the proper amount of gratitude for his alleged intervention.
Obviously, that these players are black and the father is black is not insignificant. We are Trump’s favorite targets, the coal for whatever cultural conflagrations he wants to start. But that he’d say that about any American citizens is beneath what that office used to be.— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) November 19, 2017
"How come black people never behave like I want them too?!" pic.twitter.com/L7Yt2akdp0— Travon Free (@Travon) November 19, 2017
"I should have left them in jail!" is not what a President should say about American citizens. You work for us, not the other way around.— Sean O'Leary (@stholeary) November 19, 2017
If this seems like familiar territory for Trump, it’s because it kind of is.
In the infamous “Central Park Five” jogger case of 1989, a younger but equally ignorant Trump spent $89,000 on full-page ads in New York’s daily papers asking for a reinstatement of the death penalty for five suspects.
That case featured five black and Latino men convicted as teenagers. The men implicated each other under intense questioning over the sexual assault of a jogger. Defenders said the men were coerced into a legally questionable confession. All five men originally charged were cleared by DNA evidence and a separate 2002 confession from another criminal who took blame for the assault. Trump has yet to apologize for the racially charged ads, and in October 2016, he told NBC he was correct in blaming the original five men.
The more things change the more they stay the same.