For the past week Donald Trump has been engaged in a public war of words with LaVar Ball, the father of a college basketball player who had been detained for shoplifting in China. Trump took credit for personally intervening and getting Ball’s son freed. Trump then attacked Ball for not being sufficiently grateful about it. Now it turns out Trump wasn’t even the reason Ball’s son and the two other basketball players were freed.
Here’s what Trump tweeted about the incident on Wednesday morning, in typically unhinged fashion: “It wasn’t the White House, it wasn’t the State Department, it wasn’t father LaVar’s so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence – IT WAS ME. Too bad! LaVar is just a poor man’s version of Don King, but without the hair. Just thin LaVar, you could have spent the next 5 to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China, but no NBA contract to support you. But remember LaVar, shoplifting is NOT a little thing. It’s a really big deal, especially in China. Ungrateful fool!”
But now the New York Times is reporting that “Shoplifting is considered a relatively minor crime in China, and foreigners convicted of minor crimes are often deported rather than given prison sentences.” (link). China freed LaVar Ball’s son for the reason that it always frees tourists busted for small crimes: it doesn’t feel like creating international incidents over such minor issues. In other words, Donald Trump had nothing to do with it.
So the end result is that Donald Trump has been tweeting wildly false claims about the role he played in freeing the three USA basketball players, and the punishment they could have faced if he hadn’t intervened. In reality he did nothing to get them freed; it was already going to happen no matter what. In the mean time, Trump has unwittingly given LaVar Ball a whole lot of free publicity for his shoe company.