Halifax Rainmen coaches and players speak out following championship forfeit
HALIFAX – The Halifax Rainmen are speaking out for the first time since deciding not to play in a championship game against the Windsor Express.
A physical altercation broke out between the two teams following a practice early Thursday in Windsor, Ont. that saw players punched and chairs thrown. Following the fight, the players said they, along with the coaching staff and the team’s owner Andre Levingston decided it wasn’t safe for the team to play.
“If we don’t feel safe to do our job, then we can’t go out there at any measure,” said Kevin Young, Forward.
A few hours later, the team found out the game couldn’t be postponed. They say Levingston wanted them to play but coaches wouldn’t because of the safety concerns. Players were offered additional money and new coaches, but said no.
“How could we play without coach, bringing another coach in? And do what? Coach us? He doesn’t even know us,” said shooting guard Joey Haywood.
“He also told us that the league was willing to pay us bonuses if we played the game as well as he didn’t care if we won or lost the game, he just wanted the game to be played,” Young said of the conversation Levingston had with players.
“I honestly felt disappointed in him because there was no regard for our safety at all the whole day. Thursday was just about trying to save the league, it wasn’t about trying to save us,” Young said.
The team said they knew the series against Windsor would be physical and that they documented and submitted evidence to officials that showed inappropriate conduct.
“We practice hard against each other, we beat each other up, but there’s a difference between being physical and dirty and hurting people,” said poing guard Clifford Clinkscales.
The team says they haven’t been paid and were moved out of their apartments when they got back to Halifax. They have been trying to get in touch with Levingston, but haven’t had any luck.
“I come home, I don’t have a place to stay, I don’t even know where my stuff is,” said Forrest Fisher, who plays guard.
“We are alone,” said Coach Josep ‘Pep’ Claros. “We cannot talk with Andre. Andre’s not talking with us. He disappeared.”
In total, $90,000 in fines will be handed out. None of the players or coaches say they have been officially notified they will be fined or suspended.
The National Basketball League of Canada said a $20,000 fine will be imposed on the Halifax Rainmen organization and Claros will be handed a $10,000 fine. All 11 players will be fined $5,000 each for conduct and will face indefinite suspensions from the NBL pending an investigation.
Claros and Pedro Monterio, the team’s assistant coach, have also been barred for life from coaching in the NBL.
“We’re truly sorry that we weren’t able to play in the final game and that we weren’t able to bring the city a championship and accomplish what we fought so hard to achieve,” Young said.