On race in Philippine sports
MANILA, Philippines - Filipino sports fans have witnessed the resurgence of foreign-born athletes, especially those of African descent, who have relocated to the Philippines to showcase their athletic talents.
From collegiate sports to the pros, they’ve changed the way the games are played in this country, so much so that regulations are placed on how much they can compete.
Since their arrival, some have been very critical about their presence in Philippine sports. This will be a discussion that will go on forever.
A notion on the minds of the critics is that the foreigners are a threat to the local talents here in our country. They believe that the presence of the players that are not native to the country will not improve the level of play, rather will just eliminate the locals from the scene.
That debate was brought back to the public discussion when San Beda Red Lions star center Ola Adeogun cried foul on social media about the exclusion of foreign student-athletes from the inaugural NCAA All-star game on Saturday, August 16.
“In case you [are] wondering why there are no foreign players in the NCAA All-Star game. We will be having our own game in Manila zoo, stay tuned,” tweeted the Nigeria native Adeogun, before deleting the message later.
Adeogun, who didn’t play in San Beda’s most recent game against Letran, is currently averaging 12.6 points, 10.25 rebounds and 2.25 blocks a game, good for the league’s lead in blocks and sixth in boards, according to the NCAA’s website. He isn’t the only “import” excelling in the league’s 90th season; Emilio Aguinaldo College’s Cedric Happi of Cameroon is averaging 13.5 points a game and a league-best 12.5 rebounds.
Asked to comment on the matter, NCAA Management Committee head Paul Supan of Jose Rizal University claimed that the omission of the foreign players from the East versus West All-Star game was due to the division of the teams, adding that some teams do not have foreign athletes which will cause an imbalance of competition. (RELATED: NCAA explains why there are no foreign players in the All-Star game)
He, however, reiterated that foreign players would still be part of the All-Star festivities as they will be part of the three-point shootout and slam-dunk competition.
Adeogun, when asked for further comment on the league’s announcements, declined to speak.
This issue isn't exclusive to the NCAA; the PBA, where imports can only play in the season's final two conferences, does not include non-Filipinos in its All-Star game.
People with a certain kind of nationalism, however, insist that in order to achieve excellence in the field of sports, focus should only be set upon the improvement of locals and that foreign players should be banned from playing in leagues here in the Philippines.
Feeling either way is the right of every free man, but matters turn ugly when observers resort to name calling and throwing racial slurs.
Racially discriminatory remarks such as “unggoy ka” (you’re a monkey) and the like have been hurled at African and African-American competitors here, most recently against Adeogun during a PBA D-League game this past January.
Adeogun, playing for the NLEX Road Warriors coached by his San Beda mentor Boyet Fernandez, was taunted with a banana in a manner similar to what African football players are subjected to while playing in Europe.
Filipino sport fans love to heckle, which is the right of every fan who buys a ticket. Some can come up with witty cheers against the rival of the team he/she is rooting for. A line is crossed when comments turn racial, however.
Is bigoted behavior necessary?
As a fan with a pen, I sure damn hope it is not. Whether you want to accept it or not, these athletes that frequently find themselves at the sour end of discriminatory remarks have contributed to the improvement of the local sports industry.
For example, in the country’s progressing pro-football tournament, the United Football League, foreign players have proven their worth in molding the identity of the league. They have been present in the tournament since the start and through them, the level of play of local Futboleros has intensified through the years.
In the present world, where globalization is at its peak, boundaries that are etched by ethnicity and race should not be propagated, more especially in the world of sports - a field where healthy competition is always a priority. - Rappler.com