SAN Miguel Corp. sports director Noli Eala said the organization was hoping for a lesser penalty on banned import Renaldo Balkman in the wake of his stunning endgame outburst that marred Petron’s 73-83 loss against Alaska in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Talking about the sensitive matter for the first time since Balkman was ordered blacklisted, Eala said the company thought the apology made by the import and Petron’s initiative to fine him internally would soften whatever decision was forthcoming from the office of commissioner Chito Salud.
“We were hoping that somehow the commissioner will look at his (Balkman) remorse as well as his intentions to play as well as the commitment of San Miguel to internally put sanctions on Balkman if ever this happens again,” said Eala in the late night program Solar Sports Desk.
“But well obviously other things were factored in by the PBA.”
Balkman, the talented but temperamental former New York Knick, was banned from playing in the league and fined P250,000 for losing his temper in the waning seconds of the game that saw him put a choke hold on Petron co-team captain Arwind Santos as the forward tried to pacify him.
The 6-foot-6 import had since apologized to Petron management, Filipino basketball fans, and to Santos and his family.
“Reasonableness and some compassion, because obviously Rey had apologized at that point,” said Eala when asked what prompted management to bring the whole team to the PBA office at the time Balkman sat down and talked with Salud about the incident last Monday.
But Eala stressed the corporation respects the decision made by the PBA chieftain, adding that within the SMC group he was the last one to question Salud's move being a former commissioner himself.
“I understand it must be hard for commissioner Chito (in handing out the decision). As far as San Miguel is concerned, we respect the decision. We just have to move on.
“That’s within his (Salud) jurisdiction, that’s his call … we may or we may not agree with it. It’s the commissioner’s call and I know how tough that was. I guess I am the last one to say that we should question the decision.”
The former Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director also explained the statement made by SMC management regarding its plan to "re-evaluate its continuing participation in the PBA."
The Blackman controversy, he admitted, touched a "raw nerve" with the company.
“When we mentioned re-evaluation, it means we really want to revisit the objectives for which the SMC group joined the PBA and whether our continued participation is still in sync with these objectives,” stressed the sports director.
But at the same time, he reminded people not to take the meaning of the word out of context.
“Re-evaluation is a word that sometimes can be misinterpreted, but it just covers all the options available to San Miguel in handling the affairs of our franchises,” Eala added.
“We just want to make sure our sports programs are accountable to the core values of San Miguel. I think that is the interpretation of re-evaluating our participation.
“So, maybe it’s time for us to rethink and revisit all these objectives for which we entered the PBA,” added Eala. “Decisions will be made in the future, but right now I am not at liberty to say what is going on inside our administration.”