Strong no to racism
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - August 18, 2019 - 12:00am

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial took a firm position in sanctioning San Miguel Beer’s Arwind Santos for his sideline monkey taunt aimed at clouding TNT import Terrence Jones’ focus in Game 5 of the recently-concluded Commissioner’s Cup finals. To be sure, Santos’ taunt had nothing to do with showing racist hatred. It was a taunt that he thought was just “part of the game” but in today’s global context, something like that is considered totally objectionable and discriminatory.

For this reason, Marcial’s penalty put an emphasis on educating Santos to appreciate the widespread interpretation of what he may think to be “part of the game.” The penalty includes a P200,000 fine and a mandatory community service of 100 hours. But more importantly, it subjects Santos to counseling and education with regard to sensitivity towards societal issues.

It wasn’t the first incident of a racist taunt in the PBA. Previous imports and even Fil-Ams have been harassed in the past. But there was never an incident of a racist taunt driven by hatred unlike in other countries where acts of discrimination are meant to polarize, harm and create a sense of superiority because of ethnicity. Still, Santos’ gesture was uncalled for and he paid the price for it.

San Miguel Corp. sports director Alfrancis Chua personally reached out to Santos after the incident. “Mag-sorry ka, I advised him,” said Chua. “No excuses. Arwind admitted his mistake. He was man enough to go to Jones before Game 6 to apologize. Arwind will learn from this lesson.”

Marcial acted decisively to end speculation on what should be done to Santos for the taunt.  He did right in not suspending Santos because it was an off-court incident with no bearing on the outcome of the game. Besides, it wasn’t an act of violence. Neither was it an act of hatred because of racial discrimination. The important thing was Marcial delivered a strong message that racial taunts or gestures, even if not motivated by hatred, would not be tolerated by the league and underscored the need of educating players on the implications of what they do to get under an import’s skin during a game.

The incident has sparked an uproar in social media and rightfully so. Some quarters agreed with Marcial’s decision and others didn’t. That’s par for the course. You can’t please everybody all the time. But the PBA listens to public feedback, particularly in social media so the people’s voice is always heard. What we all must understand and appreciate is there are differences in the Filipino and American cultures. We must be sensitive to and respect each other’s feelings. That’s the basis of civility in human society.

Related to this incident, a reader Ion Gonzaga, using the Twitter handle, sent in his take via a letter to the PBA and Santos. In his account, Gonzaga describes himself as a perspective blogger (who) enjoys every little thing … all things are beautiful, it’s just a matter of looking at the brighter perspective.”

Here’s his letter: “NLEX is set to play Barangay Ginebra and San Miguel in Dubai this October. The upcoming pair of games in the spanking new Coca-Cola Arena promises to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, basketball shows ever to be played in the region. You are inviting the Filipino community to come in droves not only to cheer for their favorite teams and players but also to show this part of the world the brand of basketball we have and how the sport runs deep in our blood.

“I just want to remind you that many Filipinos overseas are still enduring many forms of discrimination and the recent racial antics of Arwind Santos and his unapologetic tirade (later reversed), just add a bad taste to the already bitter pill.

“Racism is a never-ending topic of interest in cosmopolitan cities like Dubai. Several Filipino communities overseas are standing up in strength for our kababayans who experience discrimination because of the color of our skin. These advocate groups actually embody your slogan, ‘Laban Kung Laban.’ The least we expect from a PBA spectacle in Dubai is to fan the flames even more. Sports is a mirror of life. We learn strategies through basketball. Kids pick up a lot of values from their favorite players.

“While many of us are expecting heavier consequences from the league, I respect the penalties meted on him – P200,000 fine, 100 hours of community service and seminars and counseling on equality and racial discrimination. Taunting may not appear as serious as punching a player. But physical assault, emotional assault and mental assault are all, well, assaults.

“Between today and your October games in Dubai, I am hoping you don’t miss on the opportunity to educate your audience that such racism has no place in sports, much more in our lives. I hope you’ll keep us updated about Arwind’s progress on those seminars and counseling and community service. To Arwind, what you’ve done is bigger than basketball. You have a very good moniker, Spiderman – ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ No matter how high the stakes are, choose to be a champion of that responsibility than a champ for stupidity. To the public, let’s forgive Arwind. Move on. We all have been immature at some point in our lives, too. This is why we watch.”

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