Philippines basketball brawl: Australia inflamed issue by ripping up decals from court, admits chief
Basketball Australia CEO Anthony Moore admits ripping up advertising decals from the Bulacan court angered Gilas Pilipinas and ‘was not the smartest move’
Basketball Australia chief executive Anthony Moore has admitted it “wasn’t the smartest move” by team officials to remove advertising decals from the court at the Philippine Arena, admitting it likely riled the Gilas Pilipinas before Monday’s World Cup qualifier, which erupted into a spectacular all-out brawl.
World basketball’s governing body Fiba has opened disciplinary proceedings against the teams after the game in Bulacan outside Manila descended into farce.
In all, 13 players were ejected following a mass melee involving officials and fans where punches, kicks and even a chair were thrown. Fiba said it would make a decision in the coming days.
Australia vs the Philippines ended in absolute CHAOS.... and 13 ejections! pic.twitter.com/ijpWlbWT7i
— FOX Basketball (@FoxBasketball) July 2, 2018
“There’s no doubt that heightened the issue, but that was more from an administrator, federation-to-federation part as opposed to players,” he said.
Moore said Basketball Australia had swiftly apologised to the Philippines Basketball Association over the incident, but claimed they removed the decals to ensure the safety of their players.
“We had a team shoot around the day before, floor decals are always something that you look at,” Moore said.
“We trained, had numerous players fall and fall heavily and our team management undertook a course of action that we actually apologised for. We ripped the decals up.”
The move appeared to get under the skin of Philippines basketball governing body the SBP.
Former president Manny V. Pangilinan, who sits on Fiba’s Central Board, posted footage of the incident on Twitter on Sunday evening, and accused Australia of acting without permission from Fiba.
Aussie team ripping our/Fiba logos on the court of Phil Arena w/o asking permission. We will not back down. Those stickers go in. Regardless. pic.twitter.com/LMwyiBNtG4
— Manny V. Pangilinan (@iamMVP) July 1, 2018
Philippines coach Chot Reyes had also weighed in on the issue before the game, replying to Pangilinan’s tweet and saying that the decals – which were advertising telecommunications company PLDT and fast food chain Chooks-to-Go – were Fiba-approved logos.
“Besides, we’ve played in other venues w similar decals. Secondly, IF, & that’s a big IF, it did indeed make the floor slippery, they had no right to just rip the decals and deface OUR floor. There were SBP/FIBA officials in venue #basicdecency,” Reyes wrote in another tweet.
The president of the Chooks-to-Go chicken restaurant chain released a statement slamming the Australian team.
“[Australia] not only disrespected the world organising basketball body but also our home soil,” Ronald Mascarinas said.
“I echo the sentiments of MVP [Pangilinan] and Chot. What they did was very disrespectful.”
Philippines team manager Butch Antonio told ESPN: “The method of what they did, in solving the problem or the issue, was wrong. They leave it to Fiba to decide on the matter.”
Reyes had also claimed in the aftermath of the brawl that Australia’s Daniel Kickert had riled his players by hitting four of them in the warm-up.
“We absolutely refute that. It’s a conversation we’ve had with team management,” Moore said.
It had taken match officials 30 minutes to fully separate the players at the Philippine Arena, with referees conducting a lengthy video review to determine which players to eject.
Nathan Sobey, Chris Goulding, Thon Maker and Kickert were eventually ejected for Australia, while the Philippines lost nine players.
Bizarrely, the Philippines players were seen taking group selfies when the fighting stopped, as Fiba officials deliberated whether to stop the game.
“I thought it was pretty odd, to be in a position where you’ve been in a major altercation and then to be seemingly enjoying the moment. I found that very strange,” Moore said.
The Philippines resumed the match with just three players, having been down 79-48 when the brawl erupted late in the third quarter.
The game further descended into farce soon afterwards, with another Philippines player ejected for a foul. Down to two men, they were forced to forfeit the game with Australia taking a 89-53 victory in the group B Asian qualifier clash.