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Majority of Belize Elite Basketball League teams back Belize City Defenders over Belize Hurricanes in case of Kirk Smith Jr who signed playing contracts with both teams 

Posted: Wednesday, February 8, 2023. 10:48 pm CST.

Photos Credit: Belize City Defenders-Belize Hurricanes-William George Ysaguirre

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Four out of the eight Belize Elite Basketball League (BEBL) teams stand in solidarity with the Digi Belize City Defenders against the Belize Hurricanes on the matter of player Kirk Smith Jr who signed two contracts, a first one with the Defenders and a second with the Hurricanes. 

The teams (Defenders, Western Ballaz, Orange Walk Running Rebels, Belmopan Tigaz, and Griga Dream Ballers) have agreed according to Defenders’ Reynaldo Malik and Western Ballaz’s Karim Juan, speaking at a virtual press conference on Wednesday, that if the Hurricanes insist on fielding Smith, they will not show up to play at Hurricanes’ home games and that if he is fielded otherwise, the Hurricanes will forfeit those games.

Juan read a seven-point statement on behalf of the five teams. 

Things came to a head after the two teams failed to reach an agreement to solve the two-contract impasse and save Smith from being suspended for a year. Malik and Juan explained that according to the NEBL bye-laws, the penalty for any player who signs for two teams is a one-year suspension.

BEBL Commissioner Christopher McGann, they said, advised the teams to resolve the issue, otherwise the BEBL bye-law would be applied.

The teams didn’t reach an agreement, so the BEBL proceeded with the suspension. To solve the issue, the Defenders reportedly asked the Hurricanes for financial compensation plus a couple players and an apology, but the Hurricanes didn’t budge.

With no agreement reached, the Defenders appealed the one-year suspension to the BEBL Appeals Committee which ruled in favour of the Hurricanes claiming that Smith’s only valid contract was with the Hurricanes.  As to only Smith signing the contract with the Defenders, Malik said they sent the email with Smith’s signature because the BEBL asked for proof that he had signed and never asked for the full contract that had the Defenders management signatures. He added that the Hurricanes had only “provided a “couple of pages” which showed the date but not the signature of the player”.

The Defenders alleged that the BEBL had then asked the Hurricanes for the executed contract but had not afforded the Defenders the same courtesy such that their executed contract was never shown to the Appeals Committee.

The aggrieved Defenders called an emergency team owners meeting last Friday and with a vote of 5-3 overturned the Appeals Committee’s decision based on all parties (the two teams, the Appeals Committee, and the player) having previously agreed that Smith had signed two contracts, said Malik and Juan. They concluded that the original Commissioner ‘s decision to suspend Smith would stand.

The Hurricanes, with a home game that night, agreed reluctantly, according to a Hurricanes source and according to the five-teams statement, to abide by the owners’ collective decision but later, according to Malik, insisted that they would field Smith for the remaining games. During all of this, Smith was again suspended and unsuspended and the five owners stood their ground.

When the five owners met on Tuesday, they wrote Commissioner McGann and gave him until Tuesday night to respond to their decision that, according to point seven of the five owners statement, “any Hurricanes away game in which they fielded the Player would result in forfeiture without the home team to file an appeal and that they would also not be participating in scheduled Hurricanes home games. The Commissioner was informed that the only foreseeable resolution at this time was an agreement in writing to be signed by both the Belize Hurricanes and the Commissioner, stipulating that they would abide by the collective decision made by the Owners on February 3, 2023 and would make no further attempt to subvert this decision or cause or attempt to cause further damage to the League and it’s member teams.  A response was requested by the Owners from the Commissioners Office by 8PM”. However, the owners allege that no response has been forthcoming.

And despite the unresolved issue, the NEBL plans to continue its new season but with a problem that could still yet cause them a whole lot more. 

Late today the BEBL said they were aware of the press conference called by the five team owners where “certain seriously defamatory statements were made concerning the Office of Commissioner, impugning criminal and improper conduct on the part of the Commissioner and his Office. These statements are untrue and constitute libel against the Commissioner and his Office.”

The BEBL demanded that “the members of the league cease and desist from making any defamatory statements against the Office of the Commissioner. As a result, sanctions will be issued against all relevant parties who have brought the league into disrepute and have failed to follow the Bylaws that prohibit the publishing or posting of negative comments regarding the Office of the Commissioner and the league.”

The BEBL even urged “any person or media house to refrain from further publishing or sharing those defamatory statements”.

Our sources say that Belizean-American Smith was playing in Serbia but had to return to the United States because of the war in that part of the world so he became available to play here.

For now, the BEBL is not having the season start they expected, though controversy sparks interest and fans are hungry for basketball. In the end, the fallout might work out well for them.


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