On Monday night, Nov. 20, a LaVar Ball interview on CNN gave the famous basketball dad the last word on President Donald Trump's public demands for gratitude. And then, all of the sudden, the interview wasn't the last word. On Wednesday morning Trump tweeted about LaVar Ball again, with the 71-year-old president calling the 49-year-old dad an "ungrateful fool."
Here's what Trump had to say:
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 think ... 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!
Trump's insistence that neither the State Department, whose stated purpose is foreign relations and diplomacy, nor anyone else in the White House played a crucial role in the Chinese government's pardon of Ball's son amounted to a direct response to what the father told CNN anchor Chris Cuomo on Monday night.
During the Monday night interview, LaVar Ball repeatedly implied that other factors played a role in the release of his son, LiAngelo Ball, and two other teammates who play for UCLA's men's basketball team. At one point, the elder Ball also implied that he, himself, helped his son get out of China. "I had some people that had boots on the ground that knew the situation when we first jumped on that," Ball told Cuomo.
At the time of UCLA's visit to China, during which the three players were caught shoplifting, LaVar Ball had also been in China for a promotional tour of his family apparel company, Big Baller Brand. (Trump, meanwhile, was in China on an official visit.)
Ball also told CNN that thanks shouldn't be demanded. "If you helped, you shouldn’t even have to say anything. If I helped somebody, I don’t walk around saying, ‘You know I helped you now. C’mon now, give me some love. I helped you,'" Ball said on Monday night. "I'm just saying, why is that on your mind? All this stuff going on and that's on your mind, that a father didn't say thank you? And you're supposed to be the head of the — you know, you're the head of the U.S.?"
Despite Ball saying that he was neither criticizing Trump nor looking for a war of words, the interview did nothing to deter the president from commenting on Ball again. As Wednesday's tweets show, the president would ultimately pick up where he left of the previous weekend.
On Sunday, a day before LaVar Ball's interview on CNN, Trump tweeted, "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!"
The back-and-forth between Ball and Trump all stems from the actions of the three UCLA players in China, where they were placed under house arrest after being accused of stealing from a luxury store.
In an interview with the New York Times, White House chief of staff described Trump's approach to helping the athletes on their way to a pardon.
"Our president said to Xi, ‘Do you know anything about these knuckleheads that got caught allegedly stealing?’" Kelly said. "The president was saying, ‘It’s not too serious. We’d love to see this taken care of in an expeditious way.’"
Despite the legal trouble in China having indeed been taken care of expeditiously, though, this ensuing war of words between one athlete's father and the President of the United States doesn't look like it's going away any time soon.