Will to win

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Gilas draftee William Navarro has until March next year for his national team contract to expire and wasn’t allowed to join Seoul Samsung of the Korean league because of an existing live SBP commitment that’s tied up with PBA club NorthPort. He has asked SBP for a release, a legitimate request but it’s up to SBP whether or not to grant it.

Seoul Samsung pleaded for a reconsideration from FIBA which denied Navarro’s transfer on the basis of SBP withholding clearance. But the appeal was rejected. The Korean team moved on to sign another Filipino Christian David to take over the spot reserved for Navarro. Filipino overseas players like SJ Belangel and Kai Sotto have come out in social media backing up Navarro’s request for release as after all, it’s every Filipino’s Constitutional right to seek employment for the benefit of his and his family’s welfare. The issue, however, is Navarro is tied down to a legally binding contract at least until March next year. SBP may choose to release Navarro before the contract expires and if that’s the case, NorthPort must also agree to renounce his rights.

Jordan Heading’s case is similar but it went to a different ending. Heading had about six months left in his SBP contract which was tied up with PBA club Terrafirma as a special draftee. To sign with a Taiwan squad, Heading sought the clearance of his college team California Baptist University and since FIBA withholds clearance for transfer only when it involves a club, not a school or federation, he was given the green light. Heading was invited to rejoin Gilas for the last FIBA World Cup Asia qualifying window but was restrained by his new club in Japan. SBP deputy executive director Butch Antonio said he’s in touch with Heading and the door is open for his return to Gilas.

The difference between Heading and Navarro is requesting for SBP clearance. In Navarro’s case, he sought SBP’s approval although it came after signing with Korea. In Heading’s case, he went through his school. FIBA legal commission chairman and SBP legal counsel Atty. Aga Francisco said Heading’s case went through FIBA’s technical group and not the legal commission. Now that FIBA is aware of the ramifications of an SBP contract tied up with the PBA in the case of Gilas draftees, clearance will be reviewed accordingly.

“SBP executive director Sonny (Barrios) has spoken with William and his agent who also represents Dwight Ramos,” said Francisco. “It was made clear that Gilas still needs William’s services. William understands and even apologized for signing before seeking SBP’s approval. William remains part of the Gilas pool preparing for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.” The case is different from Thirdy Ravena, Justine Baltazar, Belangel and Abarrientos who were never drafted by the PBA so they are not legally bound to a club. Once Navarro’s SBP contract expires and he fails to come to terms with NorthPort, he may opt to play overseas but will serve a five-year PBA sit-out without need for arbitration by the PBA commissioner. The sit-out appears too harsh. To protect the drafting team, perhaps, the sit-out can extend up to two years after which the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. There is a need to balance a player’s own pursuit of greener pastures and a drafting team’s rights but not to the extent of a lengthy sit-out that is at the expense of both parties.

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