A PBA D-League game has become a flash point for racism in sports when NLEX big man Ola Adeogun became the subject of a 'monkey' slur by a member of the Cagayan Valley staff.
The incident happened on Tuesday afternoon at The Arena in San Juan when a utility staff of the Rising Suns was seen holding up a banana infront of the team's bench while chanting the Nigerian's name, apparently trying to get the big man's attention.
The incident was caught on camera by Spin.ph. Here's the video:
The team staffer was later identified as Bernard Santos.
Asked about the incident after the game won by the Rising Suns, 78-74, Adeogun said he was aware of the racial attack and admitted that he was hurt by the display.
But when sought to comment, Adeogun tried to shrug off the incident in a mixture of English and Filipino but was left teary-eyed after the brief inerview.
A member of the multi-titled San Beda Red Lions team, the center said he is used to being the subject of such taunts, even in the NCAA.
“It’s okay, that is his own way. Sabi ko, 'Ituloy mo lang 'yan.' Okay lang sa akin yan, I’ve been facing that ever since in the NCAA. It’s okay,” said the soft spoken giant.
“Okay lang 'yun, okay lang,” he kept saying. “Talk to coach, talk to coach.”
Racism has become a major issue in major sports leagues across Europe and North America, but it has rarely been discussed and addressed in leagues in the country.
According to NLEX, it called the attention of league officials during the incident. The referees, in turn, claimed they relayed the complaint to Cagayan coach Alvin Pua.
“Sinabi na po namin kay coach Alvin yun eh bago mag halftime,” said one of the referees who officiated the match. “Siguro po nung ginagawa niya 'yun, pag nakatalikod na kami. Pero bawal po 'yun eh.”
NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez expressed disappointment at how his star center was treated.
“Masama naman talaga ang mangyayari kung gaganunin ang isang tao … kawawa naman yung tao,” said Fernandez, adding they are leaving it up to PBA commissioner Chito Salud to act on the incident.
“It’s the first time (in the D-League) that I’ve seen him treated that way,” he added. “I’m sure he was hurt. Hindi pwedeng ganun palagi, porket ba foreigner siya gaganunin na lang?”
“Tayo nga nagagalit pag ginaganun tayo sa ibang bansa. I hope the commissioner will see that and he will take action. Masakit yun eh. The guy is just here to study and play and plan for his future… tapos gaganun tayo.”
Spin.ph tried to get the side of Santos, but the wide-bodied staffer refused to be interviewed.