Alex Acker (196-G-83, college: Pepperdine) is a 38 year old 196cm guard from Compton, California that is playing his 15th professional season and first with SAFCO Engineering Gallarate (Italy-Serie C). He played at Pepperdine (NCAA) from 2001-2005 and began his professional basketball career in 2005 with the Detroit Pistons. He also would play with the Los Angeles Clippers. In his career he played with Euroleague teams Olympiakos S.F.P. Pireus and Fc Barcelona. He also played in countries like France, Italy, Poland, and Turkey. He spoke to germanhoops.com about a matter has had with Greek team AS Apollon Patras (Greece-A2) that declined to pay him for his services.
Alex thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you at the moment in Italy?
Basketball life man it’s been an amazing ride all the way up until this point. I’ve been very blessed to play the game that I love for so long and Bring my family and friends along this journey of mine. I couldn’t have done it without God without my family and without the support of the fans and the organizations that stood by me.
It is a very difficult time now in the world with COVID-19 and there are a lot more important issues than money, but then again money rules the world. How difficult is it for you as a man in general to continue to battle this non payment issue you have had with Greek team AS Apollon Patras (Greece-A2) in a time where there are way more pressing issues in the world?
A lot of things have happened in such a short period of time not just for me not just for the people around me that I love and care about the most but the whole world. It really has set back a lot of people’s lives, finances and businesses. Patras the team that I signed with 4 years ago promised to pay in full with no problems. They lied, they lied in my face and to my agent. I didn’t complain I didn’t show emotions even when they were three months late I still played I still performed I still put on that jersey out of respect for the organization for the fans because I was set out to do something to fulfill my obligation. I didn’t want anybody to see the Alex Acker was the bad seed, that he didn’t want to perform or he was the problem. I wanted to make sure my name was clean all the way till the last game. Now, me knowing the circumstances of them not paying, the question I keep asking myself is ‘Would I have done the same thing back then, now that I know the way Apollon Patras handles business? The answer right now would absolutely be no. This has been really affecting me and my family and I’m not talking about $2,000 or $6000 dollars. I’m talking about a lot of money, close to $90,000
COVID-19 or non COVID-19, it is a fact that it has been more than 2 years since you began to fight this breach of contract issue with your former club. A player deserves to get his salary just like any other person in their profession. What has annoyed you most about this experience besides not having been paid?
The thing that has annoyed me the most is that I’m not the same person I was as an athlete 2 years ago. I consider myself a businessman, and entrepreneur. With the capital Patras owes, I could have invested a substantial amount In different business ventures and diversified my portfolio with the knowledge I have gained during this pandemic of COVID-19. I’ve educated myself and understood this was the perfect time to learn a skill set that would secure my family wellbeing forever. The capital Patras has held from me has set me back 3x the amount that is due.
You have played in so many places and leagues like the NBA, Spain, Turkey and many years in France. You played early in your career with Euroleague team Olympiakos Pireus. Greece has been known for being a place where guys don’t get paid. Did you ever think that something like that could happen to you (not getting paid) when you took the job?
I’ve been blessed to play all around the world on some of the best teams in the world. I started my overseas journey with Olympiacos in Greece Athens. Me coming from the NBA I never knew a team can actually hold and not pay you for months at a time. That was stressful but I was always reassured that I was going to get paid in the end with Olympiakos. Even though they were late they always paid all of the money that was owed to me. I have nothing but great memories with Olympiakos which made me consider retiring in a team in Greece, that’s why I chose Patras. I knew money was going to be late but I did not know that they were going to lie to my face for two months leading up to playoffs. The possibility of it happening was there, but that’s why I made sure the contract I signed with Patras was Fiba certified. Without that stamp of Fiba’s logo on the contract I was not going to sign.
*You weren’t been paid for the months of March and April 2018. Often clubs will do this and pay the player at first, but then in the second half of the season suddenly stop paying. How do you remember the CEO reacting to your asking where your salary was?
The CEO at the time had a meeting with me and the rest of the team we all came to agreement that we were going to still play due to the fact that they were late because we were in playoffs. They said the last playoff Championship rounds they were going to pay all of our money upfront so we got to the last playoff Championship rounds they didn’t pay. For whatever reason we lost in the playoffs final round to a good team. I stayed an extra week to see if they were going to pay and they said everything was fine we will pay you, don’t worry, go home we will get everything resolved. I fly home to Italy and wait. They stop answering my phone calls they stop texting me they don’t respond to my agent they don’t do nothing at all they act like I never even played for them and that’s what frustrates me the most. Finally we contact my agent to see what our next steps would have to be. We had to both pay $5000 in order to even have them look at the whole ordeal, and once Fiba looked at it and we gave them all the paperwork and our contract they understood that Patras was not upholding what we agreed upon. So we took them to court and won our case. Now we’re stuck for almost going on three years and still have not resolved this matter.
* AS Apollon Patras (Greece-A2) owes you 150,000 Euro’s from your 2017-2018 season. It was a long battle, and you won the case after two years. You still haven’t seen a cent. How difficult is this for you knowing you should have 150,000 Euro’s in your possession, but don’t have it to this day?
It’s very difficult every day I think about it that’s a lot of money on the table especially in the current times. I’ve done every single thing FIBA asked me to do, they asked me to pay, I paid, they asked me to wait, I waited (for two years now) I’ve done every single thing they asked me to do. they said they’re going to take this matter into their own hands, they assured us they were exploring every possible solution, but nothing has been done, and the communication has been little to none on their part. Every time we ask them for updates they give us no answers, hiding under the fact that the Covid virus is playing a huge role setting everything back, but it really doesn’t matter because even when the virus wasn’t a problem they still didn’t do anything to help this matter. I am very frustrated my family is very frustrated my agent is very frustrated because there’s nothing we can do due to the fact that we won the case, we paid our money, sat and waited patiently for action and we still have nothing that’s given to us in our favor. My Agent Contacts FIBA every single day waiting for some type of action to happen waiting for some type of response and they give us the same excuses that things are going to happen, things are going to get resolved, be patient be patient every single day but how can I be patient when there’s 150,000 on the table that’s due to me? How can I be patient if I’m really using my finances to actually help my family, my future career? I’ve retired from playing basketball and that’s a hard enough transition as is. I need every single penny that’s accountable for the work I’ve done, so I can provide for my family and my family’s future.
* A big problem is that your not the only player that suffers not getting paid, but there are many more in other leagues and countries. There are many many BAT cases each season. And when you go to FIBA to battle a club for your salary, you have to pay a lot of money something in the range of 10,000 Euro’s. They get paid, but nothing happens in the end. Could one say that this is a criminal act?
I wouldn’t say so much is far is a criminal act but the justice of it all is not fair. If they’re supposed to protect the player and have a union as far as anything that’s going on, and have them be the law they need to uphold the law. it makes no sense to have a federation and all these cases that are against these clubs keep going on and not get resolved. We are called to do a job, we expect to get paid for it. The same way they want us to perform to their expectations and are quick to fire us on the spot if those ideals are not met. I did my job as a basketball player I stayed healthy I played when I wasn’t getting paid, I didn’t show any kind of remorse or any type of attitude towards the organization I didn’t slander their name in the newspapers, I did my job. I did not get paid I got to FIBA asking them to help me and my agent have to pay $5000 each. Patras didn’t show me that same kind of respect, making sure my name gets slaughtered like I am the one with the serious problem, and is tarnishing my name and newspapers are talking bad about me only because I ask for my money and what’s due to me.
* The FIBA is a higher federation then the Greek federation. It is law that if a club can’t pay a player, then the Greek federation can’t allow that club to play in the league or sign new players. But the Greek federation still lets the club play. Fiba doesn’t react and doesn’t do anything. What do you think has to be done that something like this can be resolved and the player gets paid?
For me this is simple: Patras owns the gym, they have the rights to it so they have equity, they have real estate, they have ownership so there must be a way to get them to pay. Regardless of the fact that Patras has been changing ownership trying to get away from paying me, and they think that it’s completely fine or that this is just water under the bridge and they can walk away from the debt that they owe but they have equity they have real estate so FIBA can actually act, and do something about that situation. For Patras to keep paying players and bringing players acting like they don’t have money that is outrageous. More so disrespectful of not even acknowledging FIBA and taking them seriously. They are doing whatever they want to do, and everything thanks to FIBA and Greek Basketball federation complicity that they continue to discharge the responsibilities without anyone making the decision to impose a court sentence. We are talking about a sentence of a world court and not about suppositions or gossip, and despite this we are still here talking about it.The point, besides all is what will happen if this situation creates a precedent and space for those who want to abuse in the future? And above all, what credibility would FIBA have if all this remained unsolved? At the moment, in addition to the economic damage to myself, there is also an image and credibility damage that FIBA is creating for itself.
*It is very difficult to understand why the highest federation FIBA doesn’t do anything. Do you feel like the politics of basketball in Europe are getting more corrupt?
I wouldn’t say corrupt but I would definitely say that it’s getting to a point where a lot of people are not doing their job. There has to be a way to protect the players in all of this.
It seems that the clubs are always protected in this kind of situation, and the players get pushed to the side while the clubs continue to do whatever they want. It’s not fair.
I don’t feel like my rights are being respected at all even by the organizations that are designed specifically to do that. FIBA has the legal duty and authority to impose its own judgments and must apply the sanctions as per the internal regulations of FIBA itself. I will keep it simple. FIBA, as per the regulations and legal proceedings, if notes that the local federation (in this case the Greek one) is unable or unwilling to sanction the Club in which a sentence was charged as already is happening, it must act directly against the Greek federation with huge financial sanctions and finally with the ban of the Greek national team from any world competition if these sanctions are not respected. Until now nothing at all happened,and FIBA after two years from the sentence is still inexplicably and unnecessarily firm giving space to the Greek federation to act in an unusual way. Besides the sanctioned Club continues its activities as if nothing had happened. I want to be and I am confident of the FIBA authority, but in the future how many players will be when other Clubs will be able to use this situation and will be able to do as they wish despite the fact that there is a BAT and FIBA decision in place? What value will the contracts have if FIBA itself is not able to impose its authority as a world federation, and finally, what sense would it be to turn to BAT by anticipating a lot of money if FIBA is not a guarantor? To me, my family and my agent, they assured us that they are monitoring the situation and since two years this money has been missing from the economy of our families. It’s frustrating
Have you had any friends, former teammates or opponents go through something like you have where they never got paid?
I know a few players a handful of them that are going through the same situation.Some have retired and some currently still playing currently for different teams. They even went the same route as me by going to FIBA to try to get the matters resolved. They are faced with the same dilemma as me, waiting for FIBA to intervene and act on the situation.
*Have you given advice to any other professional players who may still be young or naeve to the business side of finding an organization) What advice would you give them?
Well the first advice I would give them is pretty much making sure their contract is certified doing the same thing that I did, make sure it has the FIBA stamp. Making sure that they read the contract thoroughly and they have somebody re-read it over that’s very important. I think those are key steps to understand your contract before making it official. The second step Is to make sure your agent is reliable and aware of the circumstances, making sure that he is putting you in a good situation where you can get all your money. And that he’s doing what’s best for you. These are key steps into making sure you’re covered. Even though I didn’t get all of my money on time, I have an amazing representation that’s pushing every single day making sure we are seen and not waiting here relaxed. We want action. That’s what we paid for. At the end of the day this all you can do.
* Do you still have hope in getting the money that you earned with AS Apollon Patras (Greece-A2). What steps are you and your agent doing right now to somehow get this problem resolved?
I still have hope for sure I do I know in the back of my mind that this matter will be resolved because we won the case fair. I did my job to the best of my ability and my agent is doing his job right now. Every week we ask for an audience, an update, a clarification, but the answer has always been diplomatically the same since two years now. We have respected the legal deadlines, the COVID (despite the activities of the FIBA and the Club itself are at maximum capacity), now I ask to know what the next facts will be, talking with exact dates and precise actions wise . Whoever is in charge of my case needs to take action needs to really understand that they are holding a family man up to provide for his family. I wonder if anybody in the FIBA organization would sit still and wait for two or three years and not do anything if they were in my shoes, I think not.
Thanks Alex for the chat.