No issue with PBA players speaking out on social issues, says commissioner

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 04 2020 01:13 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- In recent days, more and more PBA players have been using their platforms to speak out on social issues both in the Philippines and abroad.

From protesting against racial inequality and police brutality in the United States to calling for the junking of the controversial anti-terror bill at home, the country's basketball players have refused to "shut up and dribble."


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Even Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone has added his voice to the discussion, criticizing the leadership in the United States for fostering a "despicable" culture.

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial told ABS-CBN News on Thursday that he sees no problem with the players speaking out, even if the league itself will not make a statement the way other sports organizations around the world have done.

"Sa akin, one, sa kanila 'yun, 'di ba, property nila. Two, kanya-kanyang opinion eh," Marcial said. "So, hindi ko naman sila pinagbabawalan."

"Wala namang bawal sa ginawa nila, wala namang against sa constitution or rules ng PBA. Freedom of speech. Okay naman sa atin 'yun, 'di ba. 'Yun ay kanya-kanyang opinion," he added.

Marcial said he personally tries to steer clear of making political statements, acknowledging that it is not his area of expertise.

"'Pag sports, okay ako. Kasi 'pag politika, hindi ko kabisado ang kaliwa't kanan niyan, kaya hindi ako makasabi sa 'yo. 'Pag sports, mago-opinion ako sa 'yo, kahit anong sports," he explained.

However, the PBA players are within their rights to express themselves about these social issues, and Marcial will support them as long as they don't violate any law.

"Sa kanila, opinion nila 'yan, ginagalang ko naman ang opinion nila," he said. "Kahit tungkol sa liga ginagalang ko ang opinion nila, eh lalo pa 'yan. Karapatan naman nila 'yan."

"Wala namang terrorism na ginagawa or labag sa batas na ginagawa. 'Pag labag ka sa batas, papatawag kita, pati sa gobyerno, madadali ka," he added.

Sports organizations in the United States have been vocal not only about supporting their players, but also in calling for action and justice. Protests have broken out all over America this past week after the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, when a white Minneapolis police man knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Several athletes have become major figures in the protests -- from former NBA player Stephen Jackson who counts Floyd as a close friend, to Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics who drove 15 hours to join a protest in Atlanta. On Wednesday, Golden State guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson joined a march in Oakland. 

In a memo, NBA commissioner Adam Silver encouraged all 30 teams in the league to push for social change. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he was "deeply saddened" by the events and extended his condolences to the Floyd family.

And in Europe, footballers have been taking a stand as well. Most notably, English footballer Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund celebrated a goal by raising his shirt to reveal a "Justice for George Floyd" message. He was given a yellow card for removing his shirt, but the German Football Association (DFB) later said that Sancho -- and other players who made similar gestures -- will not be sanctioned.

"It goes without saying that the DFB's control body always has FIFA and DFB regulations in mind. In this specific case, however, these are deliberate actions of anti-racism by the players, who are thus campaigning for the very values which the DFB seeks to uphold," said Anton Nachreiner, the chairman of the DFB's control body.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has stood behind all football players making similar protests, saying they should be applauded instead of punished. -- With reports from Reuters.

(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).