Salary payment issues at heart of NZNBL Rangers imports' abrupt exit

The New Zealand NBL's Super City Rangers recently had a curious situation with their import players, and it's come to light that money has been a core issue.

On Saturday 29 June 2019, it was announced that the Rangers' three imports of Tim Quarterman, Nnanna Egwu and Venky Jois would be returning home early, and exit the season.

The facts were laid out:

  • Rangers captain Venky Jois, along with teammates Nnanna Egwu, Tim Quarterman did not join their teammates on a flight to Christchurch.

  • Their agent, Daniel Moldovan confirmed to the league that his players would not play the season out.

On Monday 1 July 2019, the SuperCity Rangers made an official announcement, with four points were clearly stated:

  • All three imports chose to self-terminate with immediate effect

  • No payments were owed to the imports

  • Quarterman had flown out

  • Jois and Egwu would leave soonest

After the announcements were made, The Pick and Roll received a tip from a source close to the situation, and the crux of this story has indeed been about payment.

Since last season, the team has allegedly had consistent issues with delayed player payments. Multiple players have had their turn chasing Rangers head coach Jeff Green for payment, with non-committal responses or promises of "next week". The same inaction was quoted on Rangers GM, Auatua Pamatatau. It is alleged that one unnamed player from last season's team, was finally paid after nearly calling every day. An import from last season had his flight home reserved via the team. The player was allegedly taken to the airport, then had his flight cancelled, leaving him stranded.

All three imports - the only paid players on the roster for the 2019 season - reportedly faced similar payment issues on their salaries, and at the time of the Rangers' official statement (01 July 2019), still had not been paid in full.

When contacted for comment, the NZNBL confirmed that the SuperCity Rangers issued a statement to say it (the club) had delivered all entitlements to the three players who have since left the team. This statement was also published on the NZNBL website at the club’s request, and that the statement was from the Rangers, not the NZNBL.

On 4 July 2019, the league confirmed that it was unaware of any further developments, only that Tim Quarterman returned home, Venky Jois was expecting to return to Australia soon, and Nnanna Egwu expected to depart Auckland in the coming days.

On 11 July 2019, Daniel Moldovan, who represents the imports, went public with a statement on Twitter. The statement read:

"I'm bitterly disappointed by the behaviour and conduct of the SuperCity Rangers led by Head Coach Jeff Green. The conditions that players had to endure this season were simply unacceptable.

  • Unpaid salaries and agent fees.

  • Unpaid accommodation, meaning the players dealt with threats of eviction from the landlord.

  • Unresponsive front office staff and a total disdain shown for their players' wellbeing.

  • Refusal to book Nnanna Egwu a flight home to Chicago, thus forcing the player to buy his own flight

I will never deal with the club or Coach Green again and will certainly advise other agents to steer clear. They are a blight on an otherwise improving league."

The Pick and Roll's source indicated that both Egwe and Jois were still chasing their respective payments. Quarterman's payment situation could not be confirmed. In addition, The Pick and Roll had been advised that Egwe had been left stranded in New Zealand, with no action from the Rangers.

When reached for comment, SuperCity Rangers GM Auatua Pamatatau provided statements pertaining to all three imports. Figures were redacted for privacy reasons.

"From the club's perspective, the players terminated their contracts with the SuperCity Rangers the moment they did not board the arranged flights to Christchurch and advised to our head coach that they had terminated their contracts. There was no communication from the players that they were not intending on catching these flights. The players terminated their contracts, not the SuperCity Rangers."

The statement also addressed the issue raised on non-payment to the players, beginning with Venky Jois.

"The amount that Jois is claiming the club owes is for the two games that he did not play due to injuries. He did not travel with the team as it was a double-header to Nelson and Invercargill.

In Jois’s contract, it states that we will pay per game on delivery of services."

The clause in reference was quoted as below:

"Payment of the remuneration will be based on the following: Delivery of Services as directed to community, Sponsor and the Team as agreed with the Supercity Rangers Basketball"

The statement attempted to clarify the payment situation involving Egwu, and also referenced in Quarterman.

"The amount [owing to Egwu] was accidentally paid to Quarterman's account.

Quarterman was asked to pay the cash out to Egwu. Quarterman was paid in advance for the Canterbury game totalling NZD$[redacted] but did not board the flight without the club's knowledge and proceeded to book his flight to LAX. Quarterman is owed nothing by the club, and in fact owes the club NZD$[redacted]. This is currently being sought to be repaid."

The Rangers are finished season in second last place, with just 3 wins to their name.

The NZNBL responded to the social media post on claims from Moldovan on 12 July 2019 via General Manager Justin Nelson.

"A thorough review of this situation, amongst others at the Supercity Rangers, is currently taking place and as stated above I will be sure to be transparent in any updates that come to hand.

"The NBL Board is across all dialogue and is joining me in this review.

"I must stress that it is not uncommon for annual reviews of NBL franchises to be conducted, especially at this time of the year. Such reviews are a normal process of the Participation Agreement each team has with the league.

"Finally, I just want express my sincere apologies to Daniel and his three players for the way that they feel and the level that they have had to go to express those feelings."

The Pick and Roll also reached out to the players directly, however none have at this point wanted to make public comment.

Today, the NZNBL announced that a full review into the SuperCity Rangers had commenced.

"The review is necessary and will deal with a number of issues that have come to our attention. Management at the Rangers are working fully with us on the review," outlined Nelson in the release.

"The NBL Board met as recently as last Friday to discuss the Supercity Rangers and the team’s future, deciding to immediately conduct a full review into the team’s operations.

“We have been very clear that the model we currently have in Auckland is not working and the review will no doubt support this. The review process has already commenced, and we expect to deliver an outcome from the review by the start of August.

“The Sal’s NBL is in great shape and heading in a very positive direction, but unfortunately there continues to be issues with the SuperCity Rangers in Auckland and we will deal with them professionally and via a complete process.

“The decision to conduct a full review has not been taken lightly. The league has advanced rapidly through 2019 and getting the structure of the competition for the future, including healthy, sustainable and professionally administered teams, is of the utmost importance.”

The NBL is expected to make a future announcement on the Supercity Rangers on August 1, 2019.