THE Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) has shot down the plans of Kiefer Ravena to play in Japan's pro basketball league.
The PBA's board of governors is standing by its decision that the 27-year-old Ravena must honor his three-year contract with the NLEX Road Warriors.
The former Ateneo Blue Eagles star is supposed to suit up for the Shiga Lakestars, one of the clubs in the Japanese B.League.
Shiga had announced that it had signed up Ravena for the coming season, which starts in September.
But after the PBA revealed its decision on Saturday, the Japanese team balked. It postponed a press conference scheduled for Monday that would have introduced Ravena as its Asian import, saying it "may add more confusion to the situation."
PBA Chairman Ricky Vargas explains that in arriving at its decision, the board had "looked at all the possible scenarios" and the risks involved.
Vargas did not elaborate on the "scenarios" that swayed the PBA board to invoke Ravena's contractual obligations. But he nailed down the point that the PBA would not hesitate to take swift action against anyone who challenges its authority.
Vargas says he was concerned that the Ravena issue might set a precedent. "It's such a big precedent, even in amateur sports, where movement of players is subject to the rules of the league," Ravena was quoted as saying.
No one can question the PBA's right to spring into action whenever its rules are violated. The point is whether those rules are equitable and uphold the players' rights.
The PBA's uniform players contract (UPC) has the standard clauses (i.e. salaries, benefits, playing terms). What is glaringly lacking is an exit stipulation, a legal way out for players who feel they are being treated unfairly by their team.
The UPC not only boxes in a player, but it also gives a team the "right of first refusal," which allows it to exert influence on a player even after the contract has expired.
With the right of first refusal, "the team owns you forever until it releases you," Vargas says.
The rule is being reviewed by the league, but there is no chance it will be amended anytime soon.
That can only mean the PBA holds the future of Ravena in its hands. It could "freeze" him by letting him stay with NLEX until his contract runs out with no chance of being traded to another team.
The PBA could also entertain an offer from Shiga to buy out Ravena's contract, but that possibility is very remote.
Instead of doubling down on efforts to can Kiefer Ravena, the PBA must show leniency and the willingness to compromise. The league will be better for it.
Perhaps recalling the case of Wesley So could provide insights into how curbing an athlete's dreams can have dire consequences.
So was only nine years old when he started playing in chess tournaments, but his rise in the rankings was phenomenal. The Caviteño prodigy quickly lorded it over the junior chess scene.
His transition to professional chess was equally impressive. In just four months, he earned three International Master norms, the youngest Filipino to achieve that feat.
By 2008, So had earned his third and final Grandmaster norm. There was no denying that he had the potential to be world champion.
The year 2014 was the turning point in So's career. That was when he switched allegiance from the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) to the United States Chess Federation. So rued that the NCFP was dictating the tournaments he must enter, which included those that conflicted with his academic schedule.
But the bigger reason, which he admitted much later, was that internal squabbling in the national federation denied him the necessary support to compete abroad.
So has since been competing as a US citizen and is now recognized as one of the giants in world chess.
We should not deny our athletes the chance to improve their skills by joining tournaments abroad. We must nurture their spirit of competition; not dampen it.