PBA Rookie of the Year, Mythical Selection, a scoring championship, and an eye-opening stint in the FIBA World Cup.
CJ Perez’s meteoric rise to basketball stardom has been undeniable.
He is part of the country’s gleaming future in the sport, both in the local and international arenas. But even with his stature, the “Baby Beast” is not afraid to use his platform to raise awareness on certain social issues, specifically one that involves his skin color.
Perez is one of several local basketball stars who posted their support for George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.
On June 1, he posted on Instagram a video of him kneeling while holding a sign that said “#JusticeForGeorgeFloyd”. The said clip ran for more than 8 minutes, which is about the same amount of time Floyd was held on the ground by the police.
In a recent interview on morning show “Umagang Kay Ganda”, the 26-year-old Perez shared how racism continues to exist in different parts of the world, the Philippines included.
“Actually ’yung mga ganu’ng bagay (racism) hindi lang naman sa States nangyayari, meron ring sa iba-ibang bansa. Minsan kasi ’yung bullying ng mga ibang color, parang ganu’n ’yung nangyari du’n. And nakakalungkot kasi, di ba, matagal nang issue ’yun sa States.” He said.
Local basketball stars have also dealt with this reality.
The post, according to Perez, was made to show support for the black community, especially to fellow PBA players who are directly affected by the situation.
“Sila (Chris) Newsome, Gabe Norwood, sila Mo (Tautuaa), Stanley (Pringle). Sila ’yung taga-States talaga na naapektuhan. ’Yung support ko talaga sa kanila is 100%,” Perez said.
On a personal level, he recalled how he has encountered the same type of bullying and discrimination.
“Kahit ako, kasi minsan naman nararanasan ko ’yung pambu-bully. Tawagin kang negro is sobrang nakakasama sa loob and hindi katanggap-tanggap na words para sa aming mga black,” Perez said.
But despite these instances, Perez turned everything into positive and treated everyone around him with respect.
“Ako naman ginagawa ko is nirerespeto ko lahat ng nakakasalamuha ko para irespeto rin nila ako. Ganu’n ’yung pag-overcome ko sa mga ganu’ng bagay,” Perez said.
This attitude has translated on and off the court. Instead of fostering negative thoughts, the former NCAA MVP used basketball to overcome these experiences.
“Ginamit ko ’yung basketball para maipakita sa kanila na ito ’yung binu-bully niyo. Kayang-kaya maipakita at ma-inspire kayo na maglaro ng basketball para itigil ’yung mga ganyang ginagawa,” Perez said.
His basketball journey is an inspiration to many — from being a young, athletic baller in Bautista town, Pangasinan, Perez took the risk and tried out for collegiate teams in Manila.
He would transfer from one school and league to another, before finding a home in Lyceum of the Philippines University, where he was reunited with Coach Topex Robinson, his former coach in San Sebastian. In Lyceum, he would come into his own and transform into an elite prospect.
After winning an MVP award and two straight finals appearances in the NCAA, he was drafted first overall in the 2018 PBA Rookie draft.
Racism is present and rampant all over the world. For those who continue to suffer, the emerging star had these simple words to impart: “ ’Wag nilang pansinin, mag-focus lang sila sa sarili nila.”
“ ’Wag nila isipin ‘yung mga ibang tao na nambu-bully sa kanila kasi hindi naman sila ’yung tutulong sa kanila para mag-grow,” Perez said.
Catch the full interview here:
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).