BEBL’s Kirk Smith, Jr. signing saga unresolved

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Amandala Newspaper

Photo: Kirk Smith, Jr.

Five of eight BEBL teams shared their views on the alleged double signing of 23-year-old Kirk Smith, Jr.

by Charles Gladden

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Feb. 8, 2023

Over the course of a few weeks, tension has been brewing within the newly branded BEBL (Belize Elite Basketball League), formerly known as the NEBL, between two teams, Benny’s Belize Hurricanes and Belize City Defenders, over the alleged double-signing of 23-year-old Kirk Smith, Jr., by both those teams.

Even before the public became aware of the expanding rift within the league between two opposing camps, a lot had been unfolding behind closed doors.

The tension began almost three weeks before the 2023 BEBL season tipped off, when the Office of the Commissioner for the BEBL drew attention to the fact that Smith had allegedly entered a signed agreement with the Defenders team before subsequently placing his signature on a contract with the Hurricanes, which was a violation within the by-laws of the league and is punishable with a one-year suspension, which the BEBL Commissioner put into effect.

Under those conditions, unless one of the teams with whom the player signed agreed to release the signed player, only then would he have been allowed to play. However, in this case, neither team wanted to release Smith, thus forcing the Commissioner, Chris McGann, to uphold the suspension. But that decision was overruled by the Appeals Tribunal, which asserted that Smith had only signed a legally binding contract with the Hurricanes, and thus instructed the league to revoke the suspension and to allow Smith to play for that team, which angered the management of the other teams.

Five of the eight teams of the BEBL held a zoom press conference on Wednesday, February 8, and expressed their dissatisfaction with the decision. Karin Juan, former Commissioner of the then NEBL, who is now a part of the management team of Cayo Western Ballaz, stated that the Appeals Committee cannot overrule the by-laws of the BEBL.

Juan stated, “In a written ruling delivered on February 2, 2023, the Appeals body erroneously overturned the player’s suspension; notwithstanding the fact that the Appeals body’s written ruling contains contradictions and faulty determinations … that also caught our attention was that they claimed, ‘The only executed contract examined by the appeals tribunal was between Kirk Smith, Junior, and the Hurricanes’. When asked how the Appeals body had been given the executed contract between the player and Belize Hurricanes but not the executed contract between the player and the Belize City Defenders, the Deputy Commissioner confessed to having contacted the Belize Hurricanes for their contract and including it in the evidence bundle sent to the Appeals body. He did not afford this courtesy to the Belize City Defenders … On a conference call held on Friday, February 3, 2023, seven of eight BEBL teams concurred that there had been a miscarriage of justice and, given admissions by the Commissioner’s office to evidence tampering, the judgment of the Appeals body was therefore flawed and could not stand. The original decision by the commissioner to suspend the player would stand.”

Juan further stated, “… All parties involved have agreed that the player has signed two contracts; hence, because that is in a position of the by-laws, there was no need to lodge an appeal, because the Appeals Committee has no jurisdiction to tamper with or adjust the BEBL by-laws. What the Appeals Committee could rule on is only a subjective decision made by the Commissioner. In this instance, the Commissioner did not subjectively decide to suspend the player for one year. In my view, this incident should have never been forwarded to the Appeals Committee, given that the by-laws have already addressed this issue.”

As a result of the BEBL Commissioner’s decision to comply with the ruling of the Appeal Tribunal, the teams which held the press conference—Belize City Defenders, Belmopan Red Taigaz, Cayo Western Ballaz, Griga Dream Ballers, and Orange Walk Running Rebels —have all decided to boycott all the Hurricanes’ home games.

“The five teams present here today wrote to the Commissioner, advising him that any Hurricanes away game in which they fielded the player would result in forfeiture without the home team having 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. A response was requested by the owners from the Commissioner’s Office by 8:00 p.m. of that same day; however, other than to acknowledge receipt of the communication, no response has been forthcoming,” said Juan.