COMMISSIONER Chito Salud has assured that officials are committed to protect the welfare of PBA players, especially rookies who traditionally get a rude 'welcome' in the pro league.
Salud made the assurance on Thursday, just moments after emerging from a meeting with Alaska coaches and officials to announce that he had suspended a referee for four game days for missing a clear Rob Reyes blow to the face of rookie Calvin Abueva during the Air21-Alaska game on Wednesday night.
Alaska officials had raised a howl over what they felt was a series of rough plays targeting Abueva which coach Luigi Trillo said has turned the No. 2 pick overall of the last rookie draft into a veritable "punching bag."
“I assured them that all the players are protected, particularly the rookies who will be ‘welcomed’ in the league which has been traditionally happening," said Salud.
"But they (rookies) cannot be hurt and they should not be hurt, in the sense that the contact made on them should be called properly and should be detected properly,” added the PBA chief.
In the case of Abueva, Salud has summoned Air21 big man Reyes for a Saturday meeting before deciding on whether sanctions are in order, then suspended referee Jimmy Mariano for four game days for failing to spot the infraction despite being in the best position to do so.
Salud has come down hard on referees this season in the wake of a spate of controversial calls. The suspension was the second this season alone for Mariano, a Class B referee who, ironically, was named Referee of the Year by the PBA Press Corps in the 2010-2011 season.
“There was contact, it’s clear,” said Salud.
Abueva emerged from the bruising game with a swollen nose and a sprained left ankle, and Trillo said they found the need to bring up the case before the commissioner so the attacks on the super rookie will stop.
“I think the commissioner’s goal is to try to be fair and to improve officiating. He wants them (referees) to be sharp. But we need to bring this up because Calvin will be playing with us tons of games and he’ll get lots of that (physical plays from other players),” said the Alaska mentor.