Arwind Santos’ racist gesture was a clear validation that racism is still very much present in society

By Nicole Ganglani | Lead photo by Tristan Tamayo

There’s a saying that once glass is broken, it will never be the same again. That no matter how you try to reassemble the shards together, you’ll only end up hurting yourself. It’s similar to how a person can never really take back what they say or do, no matter how much they make up for it.

While you could say that Arwind Santos’ monkey dance towards TNT KaTropa import Terrence Jones during Game Five of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup was done in the heat of the moment, it nonetheless validates the fact that racism is alive and kicking—and unfortunately thriving—in professional sports.

The PBA is no stranger to moments of racist behaviors. In 2018, Santos’ teammate Chris Ross accused NLEX Road Warriors head coach Yeng Guiao of hurling a racist remark against him. Another example was in 2014, when a staff of the PBA D-League team Cagayan Valley was seen holding a banana while chanting NLEX center Ola Adeogun’s name.

Santos’ abhorrent monkey dance towards Jones is a primary example that racism is still an on-going issue in PH sports today. The veteran may have been slapped with a P200,000 fine, 100 hours of community service, and a seminar and counseling on equality and racial discrimination—but like broken glass, Santos can never undo what was done. That moment was clearly a form of abuse and should never be tolerated in sports, most especially in a league where 26 international players from across the globe are part of.

Considering that Santos earns millions for playing the game he loves and is someone expected to use his stature as a role model for the younger generation, he should have been suspended. We can’t move on until people understand the gravity of the situation and why this kind of behavior is unacceptable. Moreover, the PBA should follow the example of FIFA where the league took bold steps to curtail racism on the field and in the stands.

FIFA’s new rule empowers referees to end a game in a forfeit and hand the win to the visitors’ side “if there is persistent racism from the crowd and players” after a three-step protocol:

  1. If the referees detect racism in the stands, they will ask the announcer to issue a warning
  2. If the racist actions persist, the referee can halt the match until it ends
  3. If the racist activity does not stop, the referee can end the match

If the most prominent basketball league in the Philippines does not act on this issue in a grander sense, then how are we going to understand the gravity of racism as an issue in Philippine sports and society? It’s going to end up like broken glass again—something that can never be fixed.

We can’t move on until people understand the gravity of the situation and why this kind of behavior is unacceptable.

The PBA has the power to address the issue of racism. They did what’s right by sanctioning Santos for his behavior, although they could have imposed a more severe offense to send a message that the league does not tolerate even the slightest bit of discrimination. “Forgive and forget”  does not really cut it in this case.

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