Marcus Campbell (214 cm, Mississippi State’05), a veteran of many professional leagues over a basketball career spanning eight seasons, is de facto being held hostage in Qatar after his Club refused yesterday to authorize the American player’s exit from the Country.
Bags packed, ready to board an airplane to play in a new country, Campbell was told he cannot leave the country (see Marcus Campbell bio and stats). Initially, he signed a partially guaranteed contract with Al Rayyan Doha Club in mid-September and arrived in Doha, Qatar on September 25, never played one official game for the Club after being informed that the team’s “concept”—the allocation or quotas between African and foreign players—had “changed” according to constantly changing league and Federation rules. The Player, who signed on for a $10,000 monthly salary, but was paid only $1430 for his fifty days of pre-season work in Doha, accepted the rule change and agreed to leave the team. However, he and his basketball agent, Bill McCandless, citing the Playing Contract, asked the Club to honor the terms of a contract which stated that, if the team released him, they would pay Campbell for the time he was with the team (roughly $17,000) plus a $25,000 severance penalty (and an additional $ 8.500 in agent fees).
After “negotiating” with the Club and its many managers, translators, and coaches for days on end, the Club finally offered the Player a $20,000 settlement. Armed with a clear contract saying that the Club owed more than twice this amount, Campbell rejected the offer. After more days of back and forth, Campbell’s agent sent Al Rayyan Doha an ultimatum: settle for more than the $20,000 offered, or face FIBA Arbitration. The Club declined to offer more and a search was underway for a new job for the seven-foot center.
During that time Marcus Campbell was unceasingly pressured by the Club and even by people working within the Qatar Basketball Federation to accept the $20,000 offer. “They told me,” Campbell said from Doha in an interview on Friday, “forget about your agent, sign this release and we’ll pay you $20,000, and we’ll give you a ticket back to the United States.” Campbell went on, “at first, I thought, well the offer is better than nothing, but then I started to think, ‘I’ve been here for almost two months, and this team agreed that I’d be paid a $25,000 severance fee if they released me, I’ll pass on the lowball offer and take them to FIBA arbitration.” Campbell’s agent, adds: “I had dealt with this Club before and they had shorted another player of mine, so before I agreed to put Marcus on the plane to Qatar, I insisted that there be a set penalty if they cut the player or terminated the contract.” McCandless adds, “a couple of years ago, a center of ours was cut, not for skill, but because the team had not registered with the Federation on time. It seemed to me that I should protect Marcus if the same thing were to happen again.”
On Tuesday, Marcus Campbell landed a job in Cyprus with Apollon Limassol, and on that very date, Campbell’s coach in Qatar, American Brian Rowsom, told the Player he had to vacate the apartment in two days. “By then, Campbell says, “I had decided to take the job in Cyprus and reject the Qatari team’s lowball settlement offer.” McCandless adds, “Years ago, players in Marcus’ situation would have had to bring a lawsuit in Qatar, but today is a different day: FIBA Arbitration provides a fair and relatively inexpensive way for Players and Clubs to resolve disputes.” McCandless goes on: “Marcus didn’t like the team’s offer, he was put off by the team’s pressure tactics, so we decided that we would officially notify the Club that they were in material breach, and then leave to take a new job.” Still, getting Rowson’s eviction notice sent chills down the big center’s spine. “I came here,” Campbell says, “to play basketball. I get cut basically because of some registration mistake, nothing to do with skill, the team kicks me to the curb, gives me next to no money to eat, then tells the Coach to tell me ‘get out’ in two days.” McCandless chimes in: “face it, they were mad we didn’t fold and take their offer, and so they decided to send Marcus an eviction notice.”
Waking today in Doha, Campbell never could have imagined what was to follow. “My new Club from Cyprus had gotten me a 7 am flight, so I woke early, taxied to the airport, anxious to see a new country and actually play basketball again!” The American Center checked in at the Gulf Air ticket counter, got his ticket, and ambled to passport control. There, he presented his passport and ticket. And the wheels came off. “where is your visa exit document?” said the woman in the booth. Campbell said he had none and was turned away.
Thousands of miles away, agent McCandless’ cell phone rung. “I saw it was Marcus calling,” said McCandless, “so I picked it up, figuring he would tell me he was on the plane.” Not so. Campbell sounded discouraged: “they won’t let me leave.” He then explained why. McCandless urged Marcus to not give up. “I told him, go to the Qatar Basketball Federation, tell them your problem, and perhaps they’ll get you an exit visa, and you can fly on Friday to Cyprus.” McCandless goes on: “I mean, the player plays for a team for 50 days, makes next to nothing, gets evicted, and tries to take a plane to a new job in a new country and he can’t get out?”
Turned away, feeling like he had lost a second job, Campbell decides to make some calls and get some answers. First, he called the team’s translator, who seemed to know nothing. He called other team managers and the Coach, but no one seemed willing to help.
Marcus Campbell then goes to the Qatari Basketball Federation to see if they can issue him the exit visa to leave the country.
At the Federation office, nobody seems to be willing to help. On the contrary, there too insinuations are made that Campbell should have accepted the settlement offer made by the club. Things got really bizarre when the assistant secretary general of the Qatar Basketball Federation, Mr. Mohammad Ali Hobash, turns out to be the President of Al Rayyan! The club that had terminated the agreement with Campbell, thrown him out of his apartment, and now prevented him from leaving the country!
Marcus Campbell was fired on the 25th of October. He has no money, no place to stay and can’t leave the country. He is basically “held hostage”. His former club and the Qatari Basketball federation will only let him leave the country if he signs a document that he will NOT take the case to FIBA arbitration and waives all his rights and claims.
Marcus Campbell has turned to the US Consulate, meaning that this story could now become international. In the meantime, the FIBA has also gotten involved and has asked the Qatar Basketball Federation to immediately issue an exit visa to Campbell. Whatever happens, one thing seems clear; there will be a legal follow-up.