Salud tries to defuse SMC pullout threat

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PBA COMMISSIONER Chito Salud yesterday sought to cool a simmering controversy, defending the reputation of San Miguel Corp. without addressing the veiled threat of a pullout by the league’s only remaining pioneer member.

“[The] Petron/SMC franchise’s reputation is solid and unshakeable,” Salud said in a statement to the media. “I respectfully disagree with anyone who will say otherwise, much more on the basis of an import’s individual and singular act. It just isn’t the case.”

Salud’s reaction came in the wake of an SMC statement that it was reevaluating its continued stay in the PBA after Salud slapped a lifetime ban on Petron import Renaldo Balkman on Monday. Balkman was also fined P250,000—for fighting with Petron team officials and teammates in a losing game against Alaska last week.

Observers felt that SMC was disappointed with Salud’s ban on Balkman since PBA chair, Robert Non, the overall head of basketball operations of the San Miguel group, and Petron coach Olsen Racela had already issued statements that they were giving Balkman a second chance.

SMC owns three of the most popular teams in the land—Petron, San Mig Coffee and Barangay Ginebra—and a pullout could have dire repercussions on the league.

But Salud did not take the bait, opting instead to address the statement at its face value.

“The SMC group is a great franchise ran by great leaders,” Salud said. “I only have great respect for them. Mr. (Danding) Cojuangco and Mr. (Ramon S.) Ang are pillars of Philippine society whom I have followed and admired ever since. The PBA and their franchise have been together for a long, long time and that’s valuable in every respect.”

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