Angry Oita players issue an ultimatum and appeal to FIBA

From the second best team in the Basketball Japan League Western Conference to bankruptcy and the dismissal of all foreign players is enough to fire anyone up, and it’s done exactly that for four Oita HeatDevils players.

The team folded a week ago, and is reorganizing under the mantel of the Basketball Japan League itself, leaving a lot of loose ends, including four players who haven’t been paid in weeks.  Wendell White, Matt Lottich, Taj Finger and Cyrus Tate are all Americans, and all have been told by the team and the league itself they’re not welcome and they’re not going to be paid.

The reaction, aside from shock, is that the four are working through lawyers to create a proposed settlement that demands payment in full for their playing in November.  If that doesn’t happen, and quickly, the four say they’ll take their case to FIBA, the basketball world’s governing body.  Essentially, the players want to be paid in full before January first.

The team, which has operated under a business named Oita, Inc., is still in business although the Oita HeatDevils have been handed over to the league.  A league board member, Tatsuya Abe, has been named general manager.  The team is continuing to operate, but only with Japanese players. That team suffered hefty losses at home last weekend to the undefeated Ryukyu Golden Kings.

“If you are bankrupt, you sell your assets,” Matt Lottich says, “but the BJ League is using them for a new company.  To use assets of a former company to form a new team, well that’s not right.”  The players want the HeatDevils shut down and bills settled, including their salaries.  The four are blaming O-Rid, the team’s main sponsor the past three years, for pulling out of its agreement with the team with most of the season still to be played.  “Yes, O-Rid basically screwed us over by pulling out their sponsorship,” says Taj Finger, “but it was a combination of them and our team president not knowing how to manage the team.”