POLITICS

Halifax Rainmen coaches and players speak out following championship forfeit

05/02/2015 12:18 EDT | Updated 05/02/2016 05:12 EDT
HALIFAX - Members of the Halifax Rainmen basketball team are defending their decision not to play in the final game of their league championship, saying they felt threatened by the opposing team but pressured by ownership to play anyway.

The team forfeited the National Basketball League of Canada championship when it failed to show up for game 7 against the Windsor Express on Thursday, following a fight between the teams earlier in the day.

At a press conference in Halifax on Saturday, Rainmen forward Kevin Young said the players, coaches and ownership made the decision not play out of concern for the players' safety.

Young said he and his teammates felt they were physically targeted during the series by Windsor players.

Rainmen owner Andre Levingston initially supported their decision not to play, but later pressured the team to show up for the game, said Young.

"As someone we put our trust in ... I honestly felt disappointed in him because there was no regard to our safety at all," said Young.

"It's like he's just turned his back on us and threw us under the bus and said that this was our decision, when he was there with us to make the decision."

Levingston was not at the press conference Saturday and no one from the organization was immediately available for comment. A post on the Rainmen Twitter account says the owner will hold an official conference on Monday.

Eleven Rainmen players have each been fined $5,000 and suspended indefinitely for "conduct detrimental to the league" following their no-show in Windsor on Thursday.

Coach Josep Claros and assistant coach Pedro Monteiro also face fines and have been permanently banned from coaching in the league. The Rainmen organization was also fined $20,000.

Claros said the fines are especially harsh on the players, some of whom make $1,600 per month.

Guard Forrest Fisher said in addition to the fines and suspensions, he and his teammates feel abandoned by the Rainmen organization.

Fisher said players returned to Halifax to find they had been kicked out of their apartments, booked on flights out of town and have not received their latest paycheques.

"They're trying to throw us out of this country quickly to try to brush this under the rug," said Fisher.

Players were expecting to have another week in Halifax to tie up loose ends before leaving for their hometowns or other commitments, he said.

Following Thursday's forfeit, the Windsor Express won the league championship series by default. The team issued refunds to fans who had tickets to the game and is planning a victory event for Sunday afternoon.