A total of 13 players — nine Filipinos and four Australians — were ejected from the game after the melee broke out with over four minutes left in the third quarter of the 2019 World Cup qualifier on Monday night.
The incident had players from both teams throwing punches, kicks, and objects at each other, and almost the entire bench of the Philippine team Gilas joined the free-for-all.
One of the Filipino players who opted not to throw a punch amid the chaos was four-time PBA most valuable player June Mar Fajardo. After the rest of the team was thrown out, he was one of only three Gilas players left to finish the game on the court.
Fajardo, who earned collective praise from fans for his restraint, said his decision was mainly due to his mother being in the stadium watching.
“I do not want that,” the 28-year-old center was quoted by Rappler as saying in Filipino. “My mother was there. I looked at her and she looked shocked. My parents always remind me that if I can avoid fights, then I should.”
The 6-foot-10 player was posting up against Thon Maker, a center for the Australian national team’s Boomers and the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, when the scuffle broke out. He said he could have joined the fight if he wanted to but decided against it since his mother, Marites, was in attendance.
“You cannot solve everything by succumbing to your anger. So if I can just walk out, then I will walk out because the situation will just get worse,” Fajardo added.
While he did not join the brawl, Fajardo said that he was still “proud” of his teammates, noting that they were merely caught in the moment.
“We cannot criticize them for doing what they did because that was what they thought was right. For me, I just did what I thought was right,” he continued.
In response to the varied reactions Filipino netizens expressed about the incident, Fajardo urged fans to unite in support of the team.
“We all know that at the end of the day, Gilas is still the team we will support in international games. We are still Filipinos. We need to unite. We will move on from this,” Fajardo said.
FIBA announced that it has opened disciplinary proceedings against both teams.
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