The best-of-seven Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup finals between the San Miguel Beermen and TNT KaTropa came to an end last Friday with the former taking the title in six games; a championship series that was one of the more exciting and engaging ones in the local pro league in recent memory.
All that one needs to see in a finals series, San Miguel vs. TNT had it. From highly determined teams fighting it out, to physicality and drama, to stepped-up performances, the just-concluded finals series had it and more.
But aside from its upside, the recent finals also had its low side, particularly that involving San Miguel forward Arwind Santos and his deemed racist gesture toward TNT African-American import Terrence Jones.
As the seconds tick away in Game Five of the series and the win already in the bag for the Beermen, Santos was seen mimicking a monkey following a foul called on Jones.
After the game, Santos, a former league most valuable player, downplayed the incident, saying it was not racist and it was only of part of the “mind games” going on in the series.
He further justified it that he had been doing it with Filipino-American-African players in the league to get into their minds and disrupt their game.
But the PBA, officials and fans alike, did not see it that way and took the San Miguel forward to task for what he did and labelled it as racist.
Jones, the aggrieved party, also did not like what Santos did, saying there is no place for such action in sports and that respect should rule even as he asked the PBA to take action on it.
The league did act, meting a P200,000 fine on Santos, who also needs to undergo seminar and counselling on equality and racial discrimination and render 100 hours of community service.
Santos also issued a public apology, saying he did not mean anything bad with his action but recognized he did something wrong and was sorry for it.
Jones, for his part, said he has forgiven Santos after his apology but stressed the need for people to treat each other with respect not only in sports but life in general.
No doubt about it, this Santos issue is something to learn from — for all of us to be considerate of others and rid ourselves, as tough it can be, of any form of discrimination.
Is Santos racist? I do not believe so. I think what he did was primarily made in jest, which happens in many settings and in varying forms in Filipino life. But that does not mean what he did was right.
Santos deserved to be called out and penalized for his action for he did show lapse in judgment and narrow-mindedness considering his stature as a professional player and the platform they are at.
So, may we all learn from this episode. We all have our biases and prejudices all right, but these should not have to consume and get the better of us. We are definitely better than that.
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.