Will Navarro lodged an appeal before the International Basketball Federation, hoping to get a favorable response that will pave the way for him to see action in the Korean Basketball League.
Navarro’s agent, PJ Pilares, told Daily Tribune that they are seeking reconsideration from the world-governing body to allow the 6-foot-6 forward to suit up for the Seoul Samsung Thunders despite his live contract with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas that will last until March of next year.
Navarro, a former Ateneo de Manila University star, is the latest Filipino to express willingness to play abroad.
He was introduced by the Thunders as its import under the league’s Asian Player Quota last July, but FIBA denied issuing him a Letter of Clearance after the SBP raised his standing contract with the Gilas Pilipinas program.
Based on his contract, Navarro is mandated to play for the national squad and be assigned only to NorthPort the team that drafted him in the special Gilas draft of the Philippine Basketball Association last year.
The federation added that Navarro has to honor his existing contract, barring him from packing his bags for the Korean capital to play for the Thunders.
But Pilares said they are appealing the FIBA verdict.
“We’re still seeking clearance even if it has been denied once. So, we will continue to talk with the SBP and FIBA regarding that,” Pilares said when asked about their next course of action.
“Will is still with the national team.”
Navarro’s case draw comparison to that of Kiefer Ravena, who signed a contract with the Shiga Lakes despite being in the middle of his three-year contract with NLEX.
The only difference, however, was that Ravena secured clearance from NLEX on the condition that he will return after a year of playing in the Japanese B.League.
But the SBP was firm on keeping Navarro grounded.
“The SBP respects players’ rights to look for greener pastures. But players also need to respect agreements they have entered into with their teams,” SBP executive director Sonny Barrios said in a statement.
“The SBP does not intend to unduly prevent players from furthering their careers with other teams here or overseas. But it is a fundamental and ethical practice for players to honor their existing contracts with their mother teams.”
“The essence for the need for a Letter of Clearance is FIBA’s policy of upholding the sanctity of an existing, legally binding contract whenever the issue of Player Transfer comes about so that proper order is maintained among all stakeholders.”
Time, however, is not on Navarro’s side as the KBL is set to open on 15 October with the Thunders opening their season against Justin Gutang and the Changwon LG Sakers on 16 October.
Filipino players seeing action abroad rushed to Navarro’s defense with Gutang questioning the legality of their choice of leaving.
“Is it wrong for Filipino athletes to choose playing abroad?” Gutang, who played for College of Saint Benilde in college, said.
“Are they not allowed to choose a path that will benefit them along the way? I mean Filipino athletes playing overseas are still representing the Philippines.”
RJ Abarrientos, the former Far Eastern University star who will suit up for Ulsan Hyundai Mobis, said Navarro’s choice to play in Korea is something that will benefit him and Gilas in the long run.
“You all should support Filipino athletes who are playing abroad,” he said.
“Similar to any other profession, you’ll do what’s best for your career! They are choosing to play and strengthen their ability while representing the country.”
SJ Belangel, the first Filipino player to sign with a KBL team, echoes Gutang and Abarrientos, saying that every athlete’s dream is in pursuit of becoming their best selves in order to make the Philippines proud.
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