THE National Basketball Federation of TT (NBFTT) is not taking the decision by the TT Olympic Committee (TTOC) to suspend the local basketball body lightly as they are considering their legal options.
The NBFTT in a media release dated January 4, but sent on Wednesday, said, “Stakeholders are demanding answers to this draconian decision. NBFTT is willing to expose this to a higher level of transparency. We will meet TTOC at any forum, Court of Arbitration, Civil Court, Court of Public Opinion, etcetera, to correct this national faux pas.”
On Tuesday, it was revealed that the NBFTT has been suspended for six months (January 4-July 4) by the TTOC for acting unconstitutionally in suspending former NBFTT members Keith Clement and Ikenna Joseph and failing to meet with the TTOC to discuss differences within the local basketball federation.
A letter sent by the president of the TTOC Brian Lewis to the president of the NBFTT Claire Mitchell, dated January 4, said, “We…formally advise that a decision has been taken by the TTOC’s executive to immediately suspend the NBFTT from participating in any approved/sanctioned activities of the TTOC. “On Wednesday, May 12, 2021, the duly constituted Arbitral Tribunal (Tribunal) of the TTOC arbitrated a dispute involving Mr Keith Clement, Ikenna Joseph and the NBFTT.”
The Tribunal ruled “the suspension of Mr Clement and Mr Joseph by the NBFTT board was unconstitutional and should be reversed.”
Clement and Joseph were accused of providing information to the media about the organisation’s financial irregularities. Clement said those allegations are false.
The TTOC letter said, “Though the board of the NBFTT felt that the perceived actions of Mr Joseph and Mr Clement may have warranted disciplinary action, it did not have the right to take such action. The process stipulated in the NBFTT constitution should have been followed.”
The NBFTT is claiming it followed the suggestions made by the tribunal.
“Despite the NBFTT complying fully with the recommendations of the tribunal hearing and officially informing the TTOC in writing, the NBFTT is hereby being accused of non-compliance and disrespect.
“The NBFTT is uncertain about where it ignored the recommendations of TTOC and what due process TTOC has used to establish the facts of its non-compliance claim that warrants this suspension.”
The release, signed by Mitchell, said the NBFTT followed the advice of the Tribunal and revoked the decision to suspend Clement and Joseph.
“On July 14, 2021, the NBFTT board met and reversed its suspension decision and followed the recommendation of TTOC to use Article 10:3 of its constitution to discipline Keith Clement and Ikenna Joseph for bringing the federation into disrepute.”
The NBFTT said two motions were passed.
“To accept the recommendation of the Disciplinary Tribunal of the TTOC and rescind the decision taken by the board of directors of the NBFTT at its April 26, 2021 statutory board meeting ‘to suspend Mr Keith Clement and Mr Ikenna Joseph from all basketball activities pending the outcome of a Disciplinary Hearing to be conducted by the Disciplinary Committee of the NBFTT.’”
In the other motion passed it was agreed that Clement and Joseph should resign.
“To request the immediate resignation of Mr Keith Clement and Mr Ikenna Joseph using Article 10:3 of the NBFTT constitution, and to strike both names from the records and membership of the NBFTT, effective immediately.”
The NBFTT said the TTOC was informed of their decisions.
On July 23, 2021, the NBFTT sent a letter to TTOC and copied the Arbitration Committee informing them of the motions passed.
The NBFTT said the TTOC secretary general Annette Knott acknowledged receipt of the email correspondence on July 25, 2021. On August 19, 2021 Clement and Joseph sent their NBFTT expulsion letters to TTOC and copied the NBFTT board.
NBFTT believes it followed the recommendations.
“As such, NBFTT showed that it respected the decision of the Arbitration Committee and fulfilled its obligation to inform the TTOC accordingly.
The NBFTT said the TTOC wanted to meet with the local basketball body, Clement and Joseph to resolve the situation.
“Having been informed that the expelled individuals were no longer members of NBFTT and by extension of TTOC, on September 1, 2021, TTOC proceeded to invite the NBFTT executives to meet with Mr Clement and Mr Joseph to ‘discuss the best way forward for basketball.’”
This is in keeping with Section 13 (II) of the TTOC’s constitution which states the “decision to pronounce a warning or a suspension is made by the executive committee after having given an opportunity to the member concerned to be heard.” The NBFTT believed that there was no need to meet to chart a path for basketball.
“On September 6, 2021, the NBFTT reiterated that it had followed the TTOC decision (suggestion), (and) asked the TTOC to please respect its constitutional board decision as it was made with the best interest of basketball in mind. The NBFTT further advised the TTOC that it found no value in discussing the ‘best way forward for basketball’ with persons who were recently expelled for engaging in conduct deemed inimical to the interest of the sport.”
On October 4, 2021 TTOC sent a letter accusing the NBFTT of not following the recommendation of the Arbitration Committee and summoning the federation to say why. The NBFTT insists that the Arbitration Committee’s decision was followed.
“While the (TTOC) letter admonished about the need for due process, there was no evidence that the TTOC took any time to establish whether the accusation in its letter was indeed factual. The letter (dated October 1, 2021), similar to this suspension letter (dated January 4, 2022) – failed to inform how the TTOC came to the conclusion that the Arbitration Committee’s decision was not followed. Rather, the letter demanded to know why the decision was not followed; when, in fact, it was.”
The NBFTT is considering their legal options after being suspended.
“The suspension letter, similar to the Arbitration Hearing report, does not speak of any opportunity to appeal this decision. However, the NBFTT has retained Keith Scotland of Virtus Chambers as its legal counsel in this matter. We are hopeful that clarity will be offered to the situation swiftly to avoid players being robbed of opportunities outside of FIBA – such as the upcoming Commonwealth Games – to represent their country, due to administrative missteps and misconceptions.”
The TT men’s basketball team should be able to compete at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games as it starts on July 28, a few weeks after the NBFTT’s suspension ends.