PBA legend Ramon Fernandez said he believes it's about time current PBA stars band together and revive the long-dormant players' union, especially in the wake of the controversy over Mahindra players' contract disputes.
The four-time PBA MVP spearheaded the creation of a players' union back in the eighties, which they envisioned would look after the welfare of both active and retired players, especially in disputes with mother ballclubs.
The PBA players' association, however, has long been inactive, unlike in the NBA where the union has vast clout and influence when it comes to issues surrounding the players, from contract issues to suspensions.
Calls for the revival of the players' union heightened over the past few days amid complaints from former players of KIA (now Mahindra) led by Alex Nuyles over alleged unpaid salaries and signed contracts which the team refused to honor.
Fernandez said it's high time an active union picks up the cudgels for players in such situations.
"It's going to be a very bold challenge," the cage icon said. "Pero dapat ma-realize ng players pag may problema nang ganyan, kailangan na nila talaga yung asosasyon na tatayo at magtatanggol para sa kanila."
Fernandez said the plight of Nuyles and Co. is a cause for concern that should make active players realize the need to band together and revive an organization.
"Problema talaga 'yan. Siguro kailangan na ngang ibalik ang programa na magkakaroon ng union ang players. May players' association na yan eh, all they have to do is revive it, andun lang yun," he said.
Fernandez, though, warned it won't be easy.
"Madali kung madali, kung gugustuhin ng mga players, kaso takot ang mga players eh. Mahirap. Kasi yung perception na magtayo ng union, cold ang management agad," he said.
"Ang union kasi anti-management eh. Pero nung time nga namin, open sila and willing to help us. Kasi noon ako kinausap ko lahat ng teams for them to give the support to the players. Hindi ko lang alam ngayon," he said.
In the absence of a players' union, Fernandez expressed the hope that newly appointed PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa can find a way to resolve the issues hounding Nuyles and Co.
Fernandez also said the contracts which Mahindra made Nuyles and other players sign in July should be considered binding, even if no one from the management side counter-signed.
"May problema talaga dyan. Pero kayang kaya ng commissioner yan, miski ba sabihin na di pinirmahan ng team representative yung kontrata, may tender offer 'yan eh, dun pwede mag-base," he said.
"Maraming aayusin pala si commissioner. For the players, I think they should bring it up to the commissioner," he said.
Asked about the status of the long-dormant players' association and the union plan, Fernandez recalled it is still in the hands of former San Miguel star guard Franz Pumaren.
"Tinern over ko yun noon eh. After that hindi ko na alam kung ano ang nangyari. May players association na 'yan, all they have to do is buhayin nila. Dati kasi walang interesado nun, pero I dont know now. Kasi nuong araw wala namang problema," he said.
Fernandez expressed hope the association's papers might still be with Pumaren, who is now a councilor in Quezon City, where the PBA is based.
"Dati pinag-aralan na namin yan, kulang pa sa maturity ang players noon regarding this (need for a players' union). That time ha, ewan ko ngayon, open to help pa ang mga teams sa creation nyan, kaso hindi nga cooperative ang mga players noon," said Fernandez.
"Kaso hindi natuloy kasi nga walang masyadong suporta, kasi nuong araw hindi naman normally nagkakaroon ng problema ang players sa team nila," added the pride of Maasin, Leyte.