MANILA (AFP) - Philippine basketball authorities have sacked and fined an American import for ridiculing national boxing hero Manny Pacquiao's quest to become a professional basketballer.
Former National Basketball Association (NBA) player Daniel Orton hit the headlines last week after playing against Pacquiao in the local pro-league, a game in which the 1.69-metre (5 foot-6 inch) boxing champion scored a solitary point.
"Professional boxer, yeah, okay... professional basketball player, no. It's a joke," said Orton, 24, who signed with the Purefoods Hotshots team just this month. Orton appeared to simply be adding his voice to widespread criticism in the Philippines that Pacquiao is a relatively talentless basketballer who gained his coaching-playing role with the Kia Carnival team because of his boxing fame.
But his comments were too much for Philippine basketball chiefs. His team sacked Orton late last week, and he posted a farewell to his fans in the Philippines on Twitter on Monday.
I thank God for my time in the Philippines and thank Purefoods for everything. I wish the team the best of luck this conference!! God Bless!
— Daniel Orton (@D_Orton33) February 23, 2015
Purefoods management refused to comment to AFP on Tuesday. But the team's top administrator, Rene Pardo, was quoted in local media as saying Orton had been let go for insulting Pacquiao.
"Everyone is angry at him... it is like he went to the United States and insulted the name of Martin Luther King," the ABS-CBN news website quoted Pardo as saying. The Philippine Basketball Association also fined Orton 250,000 pesos ($5,650) for his comments.
"This office disapproves of and frowns upon the cavalier manner in which Mr Orton issued his comments and the unwarranted antics and liberties he has taken with the league and a fellow player," PBA commissioner Chito Salud said in a statement. "This insulting behaviour will never be condoned by this league."
Pacquiao, who has won world boxing titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions, is sporting royalty in the Philippines. He has also used his boxing fame to launch a political career, and he currently serves as a national congressman.
Pac-fever has peaked again in the Philippines over the past week with confirmation that the long-awaited mega-fight between Pacquiao and American Floyd Mayweather will take place in Las Vegas in May.
Despite the upcoming showdown - pitting the best pound-for-pound fighters of their generation in the richest fight in history - Pacquiao intends to continue with his pro-ball career. He told reporters this week he would play in Kia Carnival's next game on Wednesday.