Australian basketball greats reacted with anger and disbelief after three Boomers were suspended and Basketball Australia handed a hefty fine for the sickening brawl during a World Cup qualifier against the Philippines.
Boomers trio Daniel Kickert, Thon Maker and Chris Goulding were suspended by world governing body FIBA on Thursday night after a lengthy investigation.
Kickert, who sparked the fracas with his stray elbow, was hardest hit, banned for five internationals, while Milwaukee Bucks rising star Maker and Melbourne United player Goulding were suspended for three and one match respectively.
Basketball Australia (BA) was handed a disciplinary fine of $135,000 for the unsportsmanlike behaviour of its players and “for abusing and/or tampering of equipment, after having removed floor stickers from the court on the eve of the game”.
However, it was the suspensions handed down to the Philippines players and coaches that sparked the most controversy, with former Boomers stars Shane Heal and Andrew Bogut blasting the decision as “ridiculous”.
Speaking on Fox Sports, Heal said the Philippines officials got off far too lightly, especially Jio Jalalon, who was suspended for five games for entering the court and punching Boomers guard Nathan Sobey in the face.
“I can’t believe what I’m listening to, particularly from the sanctions and the suspensions from the Philippine players. Start with the person that wasn’t actually playing the game … he came on and literally punched Nathan Sobey on the end of the nose and he gets five games?” he said.
“That’s assault, I was expecting it to be years.”
Heal went further on Twitter, saying: “I’m still shaking my head about these suspensions. FIBA lost an opportunity to send a powerful message around the world that the disgraceful behaviour we witnessed is not tolerated in basketball. It doesn’t make sense!”
Meanwhile, former LA Laker Bogut insinuated the Philippines team was let off lightly because it is one of three host nations for the upcoming 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
“If you are confused and shocked and what not with the penalties handed out in this FIBA brawl, check where the 2023 World Cup is. Case clo$ed!” he wrote.
If you are confused and shocked and what not with the penalties handed out in this FIBA brawl, check where the 2023 World Cup is. Case clo$ed!
— Andrew Bogut (@andrewbogut) July 19, 2018
Kickert, Maker and Goulding were disciplined by the FIBA disciplinary panel for unsportsmanlike behaviour, however Kickert and Goulding were also sanctioned for inciting unsportsmanlike behaviour.
The game’s governing body also rubbed out 10 Philippines players for a total of 35 games, an assistant coach got a three-game ban, while head coach Vincent ‘Chot’ Reyes was suspended for one game and fined $14,000.
The Philippines’ national federation was fined $337,000 and also ordered to play one home game behind closed doors and be on probation for the next three years.
The referees who officiated the game were also suspended by FIBA.
“FIBA wishes to emphasise that it condemns any form of violence, both on and off the court,” a FIBA statement read.
“Respect, sportsmanship and professionalism are expected from players, coaches, officials and all other stakeholders at every game.
“Moreover, host countries must ensure the highest standards of organisational conditions are in place to guarantee the safety and well-being of players and other participants at all times.”
BA has 14 days to decide whether to appeal the sanctions however chief executive Anthony Moore said that was unlikely to happen.
“It’s unlikely we will do that although it’s something that will be a conversation with the Players’ Association and the players,” Moore said on Thursday night.
“Thon is in transit so we will be talking to his agent in the US so it’s something we will address in the coming 24 hours.
“We have a scheduled BA board meeting tomorrow so it’s something that we will talk through.”
BA may also impose its own penalties following a review although they could be concurrent.
Tensions boiled over with four minutes remaining in the third quarter of the July 2 game, with players and officials from both sides, plus a number of unruly fans, flooding the court in disgraceful scenes of violence.
The Boomers were cruising to victory with a 79-48 lead before the game descended into farce after Pogoy lashed out at Goulding with an errant elbow.
Kickert’s retaliation on Pogoy sparked the all-in brawl, which included punches, elbows, kicks and objects – including a chair – hurled at players.