Seeking Greener Pastures Behind the Bars of SBP

by Kyle Andrew Abello || Photo Credit: FIBA/

William Navarro, a player of the Gilas Pilipinas, was caught in the middle of an upset as fellow basketball stars and fans went to social media to express their dismay with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) not giving Navarro clearance to play in the Korean Basketball Association (KBA) for the Seoul Samsung Thunders. 

“I’m sorry but this is crazy. THIS HAS TO STOP. You got players who’ve been working hard and dreaming to play basketball at the highest level they can reach and we got our own people stopping us from achieving greatness,” said Kai Sotto on Twitter after news broke out that the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and SBP did not clear Navarro for the Korean Basketball League (KBL).

Other prominent basketball players, namely Greg Slaughter and Matthew Wright, also called out the actions of the SBP. Wright stated that Filipino basketball players still represent Pinoy Pride wherever they go, while Slaughter described their actions as ‘crab mentality at its highest.’

While it is true that the SBP should not withhold its players from grabbing opportunities that would better themselves as athletes, it is important to know the reasoning behind such actions. It would be unreasonable for the SBP to limit their players, so it begs to ask the question: why did the SBP not clear Navarro?

“The SBP respects players’ rights to look for greener pastures. But players also need to respect agreements they have entered into with their teams,” SBP said in a statement Sunday, Sept. 18. “Mr. Navarro has an existing contract to: 1) play for the national team, attend activities, practices, social and business functions and 2) with his undeniable agreement, be assigned to only and no other team or ballclub than his PBA drafting team, the NorthPort Batang Pier. The SBP does not intend to unduly prevent players from furthering their careers with other teams here or overseas. But it is a fundamental and ethical practice for players to honor their existing contracts with their mother teams.”

Based on the statement of the SBP, it is true that an athlete should uphold and honor their contract. Since Navarro still has an ongoing obligation, it would dishonor his contract if he would play in the KBL, hence SBP not giving him clearance to participate in the said stint abroad. The statements of his fellow basketball players may sound right, but in reality, it does not hold a legal basis.

However, it should be understood where the players are coming from. As athletes, they know the importance of stepping out of their comfort zone and maximizing every opportunity that comes their way, as it is what allows them to improve. They know how great the opportunity would have been for Navarro and how having exposure to playing abroad might even be beneficial for Gilas Pilipinas.

Although it makes more sense for the SBP to allow Navarro to let him spread his wings, this argument would have no legs in the court of law because of the presence of the contract that bars Navarro from reaching greatness and from having freedom as an athlete. 

Freedom is fundamental when expanding your horizons, but that freedom might be tainted by a contract. If there’s a lesson from this stirrup, it would be that if one wants to have the freedom to seek greener pastures, carefully review the contract that is to be signed, or better yet, don’t sign it at all.

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