Australia and the Philippines apologised Thursday for bringing basketball into “disrepute” with a massive on-court melee between players, fans and officials during a World Cup qualifier.
The violence on Monday in Manila, which made international headlines, left the Australian team fearing for their safety, and they sought embassy help to fast-track their departure from the Philippines.
“We wish to apologize to the entire basketball community worldwide – and in particular to our fantastic fans,” said the joint statement from the nations’ basketball associations.
The apology in particular cited “the behavior displayed by both teams and for bringing the game of basketball into disrepute.”
Tempers were still hot on Wednesday when the Australian team arrived home after the bench-clearing fight that resulted in 13 players being ejected and which was hashtagged #basketbrawl.
“I’ve never seen anything like that, not even on YouTube. I do believe that their coach Chot Reyes incited them to come out and thug us,” Boomers assistant coach Luc Longley told reporters after landing in Brisbane.
Longley, who won three NBA championships alongside Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls, pointed to footage of an angry Reyes during a time-out telling his players to “hit somebody”.
What was already a bad-tempered game erupted into violence in the third quarter when Philippine player Roger Pogoy knocked Australia’s Chris Goulding to the ground and Daniel Kickert retaliated by flattening Pogoy with a flying elbow.
Basketball’s governing body FIBA has opened disciplinary proceedings against both teams after the melee, where players and officials kicked and pounded a prone Australian player and both sides exchanged flying kicks and punches.