NOT a few eyebrows were raised when PBA superstar James Yap posted a photo on Twitter and Instagram of him posing next to a top-of-the-line KIA K9 car with the caption, 'Thank you Kia Philippines for my new Kia K9.'
For diehard Star fans, the innocent-looking post triggered alarm bells. "Is there a hidden message to this? "Is my idol leaving the Hotshots and moving to KIA?
But a bigger concern was raised by keen-eyed fans who asked if Yap endorsing KIA and getting a car in return is allowed under league rules, pointing out, correctly, that such a set-up constitutes a 'conflict of interest' both for the expansion team and the two-time league MVP.
In fact, we doubt if PBA players are allowed to endorse products of rival ballclubs, except in the case of Yap's teammate Marc Pingris who appeared in a commercial for Purefoods' sister team San Miguel Beer last year.
(Another question actually begs to be answered: Is KIA playing-coach Manny Pacquiao still a product endorser of Ginebra and SMB? And does it not violate league rules?)
But before things could get out of hand in the case of Yap, we sought out the Star forward as well as officials of KIA to clear up the issue.
We got the answer from Columbia Autocar Corporation president and KIA team governor Ginia Domingo.
Asked if Yap has been tapped as a KIA endorser or has purchased the luxury car endorsed by NBA superstar LeBron James, Domingo told Spin.ph, “None of the above. He’s (Yap) just test-driving the K9.”
Yap himself answered Spin.ph's querry later, saying he was just chosen as one of K9’s test drivers and users of the 5.0-liter car which Kia is set to fully launch with a hefty P5 million price tag.
“Parang luxury ambassador lang. Pero walang commitment outside of the use ng car,” said Yap while hinting that among the first drivers of the KIA K9 in the country are Manny Pacquiao and Talk 'N Text governor Patrick Gregorio.
“Kasi sabi nga nila, puro sports people daw kasi gusto maging associated sa K9, parang si Lebron. Kaya okay naman,” added the soft-spoken pride of Escalante, Negros Occidental.
Star team governor Rene Pardo was also quick to allay fears of Hotshots fans, assuring that Yap sought Star management's consent before ‘test driving Kia’s flagship sedan.'
“Alam naman namin 'yan. Hindi mo naman pwedeng sabihin na nililigawan si James ng KIA because of that. Pinamamaneho lang naman sa kanya yung kotse,” said Pardo.
“Kami rin naman pwede rin namin bigyan ng Star products si (Manny) Pacquiao tapos papa-post namin sa Instagram niya,” he added. “Remember, Manny is also an endorser of San Miguel Beer and its products.”
Pardo, however, admitted he is aware of Kia’s interest in Yap, which was mentioned to Spin.ph by team manager Eric Pineda recently.
See story HERE
Needless to say, Pardo is far from alarmed.
“Any team naman can say they like James. Who wouldn’t want a James Yap in their team? Pero we know the people of Kia, they handle their affairs professionally,” said Pardo.
Meanwhile, KIA said its participation in the PBA has had a favorable effect it its sales. Since joining the pro league last year, the car company has already reported a 5.9 percent spike in sales in 2014.