NLEX stands by UPC, but Kiefer thanks team 'for giving me your blessing'

The NLEX Road Warriors said in a statement on Wednesday evening that they are bound by league rules in response Kiefer Ravena's decision to sign with Japan B.League squad Shiga Lakestars, even as the star guard posted his own message where he implied that the team had given him its approval.

"We understand and support Kiefer's desire for personal advancement. However, as a member of the PBA, we are duty bound to abide by the rules and regulations that govern the league," opened the statement posted on the team's official website.

"The NLEX Road Warriors stand by the tripartite agreement between our organization, the PBA, and the individual player, which is enshrined in the Uniform Players' Contract (UPC)," it added.

Ravena signed a three-year extension with the team in September 2020. He scored 19.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists and a steal for the Road Warriors inside the "bubble" in Clark, Pampanga. The team, however, missed the playoffs with a 5-6 record.

PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial said in an earlier interview that the league cannot grant Ravena his release because he has an existing commitment with NLEX and the league through the live UPC.

"Short and simple: he can't play (in Japan) because that's not allowed under the league's Uniform Players' Contract (UPC)," he told ESPN5's Eros Villanueva.

"The Japan engagement of Kiefer will need to conform to the terms of the UPC as well as the rules and policies of the PBA," NLEX's statement said in closing.

The UPC, according to Magnolia team governor Rene Pardo in an interview with ESPN5's Richard Dy, does not have an exit clause for any player.

However, within minutes of the Road Warriors' posting of their statement, Ravena posted his own message on his Facebook account where he thanked the team "for giving me your blessing".

"In light of today's announcement, I would like to thank my team, Shiga Lakestars, for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Ravena said in the statement. "Thank you for the trust and belief that a Filipino can perform and play in such a prestigious league. Domo arigatou gozaimasu.

"I would also like to thank my NLEX Road Warriors Family and Management. To Boss MVP, Boss Rod Franco, Boss Ronald, Coach Yeng and all my teammates, maraming salamat. The support you have given me all throughout my stay has given me nothing but joy and great memories. Our dream of winning a championship will always be there. I am and will always be proud of this family. Thank you for giving me your blessing and backing me in this next stage of my career."

Ravena also thanked the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, the PBA and its Board of Governors, and his fans.