Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner Angelico “Chito” Salud said he strongly believes that San Miguel Corporation (SMC), which owns three basketball teams in the PBA, will not pull out of the league just because one of its imports was banned for life.
Several top PBA officials shared the same view and urged the members to stand united and not be shaken by the misbehavior of one import.
San Miguel shook the league to its foundations Monday when it issued a statement saying it plans to re-evaluate the company’s continued participation in the PBA after Commissioner Salud banned Petron Blaze import Renaldo Balkman for life following a bizarre incident last Friday where Balkman shoved his coaches and teammates, chased the referees and choked Arwind Santos who tried to pacify him.
“Petron/SMC franchise’s reputation is solid and unshakeable,” said Salud.
“I respectfully disagree with anyone who will say otherwise, much more on the basis of an import’s individual and singular act. It just isn’t the case,” said Salud.
“The SMC group (which includes Petron, B-Meg and Ginebra San Miguel) is a great franchise run by great leaders. I know many of them personally and I only have great respect for them. Mr. (Danding) Cojuangco and Mr. (Ramon) Ang are pillars of Philippine society who I have followed and admired ever since. The PBA and their franchise have been together for a long, long time and that’s valuable in every respect,” he added.
Rain or Shine’s Mamerto Mondragon, the former PBA Board chairman, said that while the Balkman incident was unfortunate, he thinks that SMC will continue to be a strong partner of the league.
“I don’t think they’ll leave, I just can’t imagine that,” said Mondragon.
“They’ve been here since Day 1 of the PBA. They’ve already invested so much in the league. Not only that, they have a strong following that makes the PBA the No. 1 sports entertainment not just in the country, but in Asia,” he added.
The current vice chairman of the board, Ramon Seguismundo of Meralco urged for unity and for the parties to move forward.
“Let us be united in making sure that the PBA will continue as the No. 1 professional league in Asia. Let us not be distracted by an isolated case, by an isolated import. Let’s move forward,” he said.
“It is an unfortunate incident but I think we have to respect the decision of the commissioner,” Seguismundo added.
Aside from the lifetime ban on the 6-foot-6 Balkman, the league also fined the import P250,000.
SMC reacted sharply to the ban despite efforts by the team to show that all’s well with the organization.
During the hearing at the PBA office where Balkman was summoned last Monday, Petron brought along head coach Olsen Racela and all Petron players inclusing Santos, Chris Lutz, Ronald Tubid, and Chico Lanete.
Salud described Balkman’s behavior as “belligerent if not aberrant,” adding that the import showed disrespect for his game, his own ballclub the fans and his host country.”