Australia’s basketballers have denied claims they racially taunted Philippines players before an all-in brawl.
The ABC reported on Sunday that accredited photojournalist Winston Baltasar claimed to have overheard verbal abuse from the sidelines, including the word “monkey”, but did not identify who was responsible.
“I think I should mention when the Boomers were up by 30 points, there was still a lot of what I would say was taunting, a lot of mouthing. There were a lot of words being said,” Baltasar told ABC Grandstand.
“We did hear the word ‘monkey’ being thrown around.
“I couldn’t hear exactly who said it, but I did hear it. And like I said when the Boomers were up by 30 points, I don’t think words like that should be thrown around.”
After the interview went to air, Australian Basketballers Association CEO Jacob Holmes issued a statement denying the claims.
“The allegations made by Mr Baltasar are unsubstantiated and highly defamatory and we are reviewing our legal avenues to address them,” Mr Holmes said.
“The Boomers pride themselves on their inclusive and diverse composition, just like the country they represent, and the comments made by Mr Baltasar and republished by the ABC have caused immense distress to our players.”
The ABA said it had issued complaints to the ABC about the coverage.
“At no stage was Basketball Australia or the ABA contacted for comment before the allegations were published, in a clear breach of the ABC’s own editorial standards,” Mr Holmes said.
Basketball Australia also criticised the story.
“Australian basketball prides itself on being a diverse sport that embraces all sections of the community,” Basketball Australia chief executive Anthony Moore said in a statement.
“We take these allegations against our players extremely seriously and are deeply disappointed the ABC chose to publish them.”
Soon after the original melee, the national associations from both countries, the PBA and BA, issued a joint apology suggesting the “actions displayed have no place on any basketball court” and accepted responsibility while promising “to do everything in our power to prevent this from happening again”.
Baltasar told the ABC the apology had gone a long way towards starting the healing process.
“All of the Philippine players have come out with apologies on their Instagram accounts, I do believe the Australians have done something similar, so we are on the way to healing,” he said.
“We all want this over and done with so we can play the beautiful game of basketball, or we can watch it, without having all these bad memories.”