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MANILA, Philippines – “We at PLDT would like to apologize to the Filipino fans for having disappointed them. It was a sudden turn of events and we, ourselves, are disappointed with the way things developed contrary to our expectations.”
PLDT chairman and top Gilas Pilipinas patron Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP) expressed his disappointment and apologized to Filipinos who paid to see an exhibition game between NBA stars and the country’s own national team, but instead had to settle for practice drills and workouts – far less than their money’s worth and the exact opposite of expectations set.
The Last Home Stand basketball charity event was supposed to consist of three-point and slam dunk competitions and the much-anticipated scrimmage, but the event took an abrupt 180-degree turn Tuesday, July 22 and went from a spectacle to a disaster in a matter of hours.
After an ecstatic crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum welcomed NBA stars such as Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard, among others, Gilas head coach Chot Reyes announced on the court there would be no 5-on-5 game for the night.
Ariel Fermin, PLDT Home Executive Vice President and Head for Home Business, followed suit and explained the fans would be witnessing the nationals train alongside the NBA players instead.
He said if the fans were not happy with what they saw, PLDT was willing to issue refunds. He then stressed the charitable cause of the event, which agitated the shocked crowd. No amount or quality of showmanship could appease the fans as all players on the floor drew boos from courtside to way up the rafters. (RELATED: How to claim ‘Last Home Stand’ refunds)
During a last-minute press conference after the event, Maria Espaldon, President of East West Private – the same company that put together the 2011 Ultimate All-Star featuring Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant – bared the players were not allowed to play 5-on-5 as instructed by the NBA.
It became clear there was no way but down for the Last Home Stand as MVP himself announced that day two of the event scheduled to happen on Wednesday, July 23 would be canceled, also due to the players not being allowed to play.
According to Espaldon and Fermin, they were only informed of the development regarding the players late on Tuesday afternoon, leaving them with no choice but to make do with what they had.
“We learned this afternoon that the 5-on-5 game cannot push through,” Fermin explained. “Hoping that the Filipino fans would still appreciate what we have left, we pushed through with it. And obviously the people have spoken.”
About two hours before the event, it was also announced that biggest draws Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin and Indiana Pacers’ Paul George wouldn’t be participating in the event due to “urgent personal matters.”
This development alone already left many unsatisfied, having purchased tickets ranging from P750 to P23, 300.
However, MVP was quick to take responsibility for the horrible turn of events, saying they created the expectation but couldn’t deliver on making it a reality.
“Our responsibility is to the Filipino basketball fans. That’s why it is a basketball clinic but we clearly appreciated the expectation that there would be a 5-on-5 or a game, the sort that follows a clinic, that much is clear to us,” he explained.
“I think there should be no mincing of words here. And clearly we created that expectation and perception. So our job as PLDT is to be accountable for that perception that’s why there’s an offer for a refund.”
Espaldon further elaborated on the communication between East West and the NBA. It turns out the organizers had missed the NBA’s deadline for the necessary permit that would have allowed the players to participate in an exhibition game.
“We thought that it could be a great opportunity to really bring the best of basketball here and also do charity at the same time,” she began.
“That was sort of what we were hoping, that the NBA – despite the fact that we had missed the deadline – would have said that it’s for charity and it’s for the benefit of the victims of Haiyan. We explained all of that to them. They just weren’t having any of that. They didn’t want to listen to the fact that this was not something we were doing for profit.”
Missing the deadline proved quite costly as the NBA players themselves, who have already been paid in part according to Fermin, were threatened with suspensions and fines had they pushed through with the 5-on-5 game.
“The players got worried, they got scared (because of the suspensions and fines),” Reyes said.
“It’s really disappointing, the sudden turn of events,” MVP admitted, also noting that PLDT doesn’t directly speak to the NBA. They do it through East West.
“I was just told in the afternoon what happened. We obviously had the option of canceling even tonight’s (Tuesday’s) event.”
Asked why the NBA’s decision came so late, Espaldon simply said, “We have been communicating with them regularly.”
No ‘game’ advertised
Despite the disappointment of fans, Espaldon claims that no game was ever promised.
“I just want to be very clear, we have always told everybody that we cannot announce a game. If you look back, we have vetted everything,” Espaldon explained.
“Tweets by MVP have been very, very clear. We have not actually said that there’s a game. We haven’t said that, because we were trying to fall within the guidelines of the NBA. So we’ve always said it’s going to be a show, it’s going to be an experience.”
It wasn’t the kind of experience it should have been as fans clamored for an explanation and called for refunds at the Big Dome’s lobby well before the event ended and more so when it wrapped up. Furious, confused and feeling deceived, fans waited anxiously to get details on how they could get their money back.
“I don’t know if there’s a blame that needs to be put,” Espaldon said. “The Filipino audience had an expectation of a game. They had enjoyed something really happy in 2011 and they really wanted to see something like that again. Our objective was to deliver something like that again this year and we had to adjust because it wasn’t within the parameters of the NBA.”
PLDT passed around phone numbers to call so fans can inquire about getting refunds.
But it’s not just the fans that are disappointed about the Last Home Stand. Even Gilas players themselves found it difficult not to give the fans what they came to see.
“Obviously, it’s tough. I think definitely it didn’t go as planned,” remarked veteran playmaker Jimmy Alapag, who found out about the canceled game right at the arena that afternoon.
“The people I feel bad the most for are the fans. They came out here to see a great game, they came to watch not just those guys but also the national team. It’s unfortunate that it turned out the way it did.
“Hopefully the fans get their money back. It’s tough to have the fans spend their hard-earned money and not really get the show they’re expecting.” – Rappler.com