James Yap, fellow PBA riders vow to stay safe in the face of contract risks

Mar 16, 2020

CRUISING through light traffic along the expressway, the wind blowing against your skin on a bright Sunday morning, in the company of like-minded people.

That feeling, among other reasons, has left not a few people wanting to ride motorcycles in what has become a nationwide craze.

Some PBA players, though, have caught the virus on two wheels long before it became a craze. And way before a group of players went on a ride to Tagaytay that seemed like a coming-out party for the “PBA Moto-Club.”

James Yap, JC Intal, and KG Canaleta, among others, have been riding for years. Two-time PBA MVP Yap already has four big bikes in his garage, his eyes brightening up when asked to describe the high he feels when he’s on the saddle cruising.

“Kasi iba din feeling pag nagmo-motor eh. Hindi mo mabayaran ng pera eh,” the maximum-salary Rain or Shine shooting guard said in a chat with SPIN.ph. “Yun enjoyment mo, nakakawala ng stress, nakaka-relax, tsaka masaya lang.”

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Some players ride for pleasure; others use two wheels to avoid traffic and save time.

Take the case of Phoenix point forward Alex Mallari, who has been riding an electric scooter from his house near the Philsports Arena in Pasig to Fuel Masters practice at nearby Upper Deck Sports Center for a year now.

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“I just live near Ultra, so it only makes sense that I invest in a scooter and eliminate the hassle of traffic,” Mallari said. “Sometimes guys get so frustrated with traffic – at least I used to, so now that I got this, it takes me five minutes to get here. My head’s clear.”

“If I lived further, I’d probably get a motorcycle. But since I live so close, I just got a scooter…Best decision of my life,” he added of his scooter worth P23,000.

The players’ thrill and convenience, however, go against a long-standing PBA rule prohibiting players from traveling on motorcycles and other transportation on two wheels, which teams see as a big risk to their well-being.

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PBA rule on motorcycles

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial confirmed a provision in the Uniform Players’ Contract (UPC) forbids players from using transportation on two wheels, including bikes. That same provision bars players from engaging in contact sports and extreme outdoor activities like boxing and paragliding.

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The wisdom behind the rule is clear: PBA teams sign these players to multi-million contracts and spend a lot more to keep them in top shape. Such risky hobbies, therefore, put these 'investments' in jeopardy.

The affable Marcial, though, has given motorcycle-riding players a little leeway, considering some PBA board members are also avid big bikers – that is, so long as they stay safe.

“Medyo light lang nang konti,” Marcial admitted, referring to his treatment toward motorcycle-riding players. “Kasi yung ibang mga officials din natin nagmo-motor, so wag lang sila ma-aksidente, kasi pag na-aksidente sila, pwede hindi sila sagutin ng team. Pwedeng tapos na yung career nila.”

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That, however, is easier said than done, considering that riding in motorcycles in the metropolis' gridlocked streets is considered one of the most dangerous means of transporation.

Marcial himself recounted an incident where a former San Miguel player from the mid-2010s – whom the commissioner declined to divulge – failed to secure a contract extension after getting into an accident while riding a motorcycle in Dumaguete.

Life is too short

Last January, Blackwater big man Chris Javier got into an accident while on his Kawasaki Dominar 400, crashing into a concrete part of a rotunda near the Carmona exit of SLEX in the wake of the Taal Volcano eruption.

To show how serious he is, Javier immediately sold his motorbike after the accident.

“Parang you have the freedom,” Javier said. “Nasa tao naman yan eh. Pag nagmo-motor ka na, nakakatanggal ng stress eh, lalo na pag magra-ride ka, parang masarap, ‘di ba? Barkadahan, ganun. Tapos iwas na din sa traffic.

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“Pero yung nangyari sa akin, ano na yun siguro, it’s a sign na life is too short – sa motor,” he was quick to add. “Maraming nagsasabi na depende talaga sa nagmamaneho, ‘di ba? Pero you know, accidents, hindi natin alam kung kalian; kaya nga aksidente, ‘di ba? Unpredictable yan.

“So sa experience ko, hindi na ako magmo-motor, kasi sayang eh. At my age, marami pang pwedeng mangyari sa akin. Sayang buhay,” added the 27-year-old Javier, who has a two-year-old son, Stefan.

Safety first

Javier reminds fellow PBA riders to stay safe as he acknowledged that any accident will be costly, especially since the hobby is in violation of a provision in their contracts.

“Ingat lang, ingat lang. Pero nasa kontrata yan,” Javier said. “Eh iba na ngayon, ‘di ba? Black and white ang basehan. Pinirmahan natin. Mali din natin talaga yun. Matigas yung ulo natin sa part na yun. Mali talaga yun. Siguro lesson talaga yun.”

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Despite the risks, Mallari hopes the PBA continues to give them some slack.

“As long as they let us – I think they should, 'cause some guys get in traffic for two hours and by the time they get to practice, they’re tired, they’re unmotivated, so I think, in Manila, it’s probably a good investment,” the Filipino-American wingman said.

Yap, who has been riding since he was in high school in his native Escalante City, Negros Occidental, is grateful for the flexibility from the league as he vowed to always put safety first.

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    “At least hindi sila masyado strikto. Thank you sa kanila, thank you kay Comm,” the 38-year-old two-time MVP said.

    “Ingat lang … Hindi naman kami lumalabas pag hindi full gear. Hindi naman kami pakawala sa daan. Syempre safety din. Kasi player kami, so yung risk kasi, ‘di ba?” he concluded.

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