The three U.C.L.A. men’s basketball players who were entangled in an international incident in China that compelled President Trump to get involved admitted on Wednesday that they had shoplifted in Hangzhou. They were suspended from the team indefinitely.
“They will have to earn their way back,” Coach Steve Alford said of LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.
The players, who returned to the United States on Tuesday after President Trump interceded with President Xi Jinping of China, apologized for their actions at a news conference.
Ball, the highest-profile player involved, said: “I’d like to start off by saying sorry for stealing from the stores in China. I’m a young man, but it’s not an excuse for making a really stupid decision.”
The team said the players had stolen from three stores, not just one as originally reported.
Earlier Wednesday, President Trump tweeted about his intervention, saying: “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”
The players did thank Trump, among many others.
“To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking time to intervene on our behalf,” Riley said.
The players also thanked the Chinese police for treating them with respect.
“These are good young men who exercised an inexcusable lapse of judgment,” Alford said.
No questions were taken after the news conference.
The news conference was the first time players or staff members at U.C.L.A. had commented significantly on last week’s incident. The university had been mostly closed-lipped on the matter while the players were detained. Alford said that the team had been advised that speaking about it could have jeopardized the players returning home.
The players were arrested on Nov. 8, accused of stealing designer sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store in Hangzhou. The team was in the country to play an exhibition against Georgia Tech. Playing without the three freshmen, U.C.L.A. won, 63-60, in Shanghai on Friday.
The players were detained at their hotel in Hangzhou for most of the week as their teammates flew home. On Tuesday, the three players were allowed to board a flight back to California.
“An awful lot of American kids don’t realize that the kinds of things that in United States society we tolerate with a slap on the wrist, a lot of countries they take very seriously,” John F. Kelly, the president’s chief of staff, said on Tuesday.
“Our president said to Xi, ‘Do you know anything about these knuckleheads that got caught allegedly stealing?’ ” Kelly said.
In China, where the justice system has a high conviction rate, theft can normally bring prison time, perhaps years.
Ball is part of a family that has its own reality show on Facebook, “Ball in the Family.” One brother, Lonzo, plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, and another, LaMelo, is a high schooler who has committed to play at U.C.L.A. Their father, LaVar, has become a public figure as well, and has started a sports-apparel company, Big Baller Brand.
The U.C.L.A. team’s trip to China was in part a way to raise the profile of the university and the Pac-12 Conference in that country, possibly attracting students who have well-to-do parents and who want to study abroad. Many American universities in recent years have increasingly relied on tuition payments from foreign students.