Teams frown on flying

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

As a proud pilot, Raptors forward Joey Graham is not about to quit flying in the wake of the Cory Lidle tragedy.

While he risks losing his multi-million dollar contract and could be putting himself in physical danger when he enters the cockpit, Graham did not reconsider his plan to renew his pilot's licence after the New York Yankees pitcher was killed in a plane crash Wednesday.

"I've been doing it for so long, it doesn't deter me at all," Graham, the son of a former U.S. Navy pilot, said yesterday. "It's like second nature to me. It's just a tragedy he had to go down. If I could say anything to the rest of the pilots out there, just keep flying. You never know what's going to happen."

Graham, who has logged more than 100 hours of flying time in a small plane similar to the one Lidle was in when it crashed into a building in Manhattan, has been a licensed pilot for more than two years and plans to attempt to renew his license in the off-season.

Flying is a prohibited activity in Article 12 of the NBA's Uniform Player Contract, along with activities such as snow skiing, motorcycle riding or rock climbing, unless a player receives written consent from the team, which seems to be a remote possibility.

"In my contract, it says I can't do anything like that, like ride motorcycles, ride planes, or do anything that could jeopardize my career," Graham said in a statement that acknowledges he is taking a financial gamble by flying.

Previous Raptors general manager Rob Babcock joked in a newspaper article that Graham could land the team's charter in an emergency, so he clearly was aware of the player's passion for flying. So is new president/general manager Bryan Colangelo, who isn't going to be the one to stop Graham from flying, but definitely wants him aware of the risks.

"Am I comfortable with Joey Graham flying? Yes," Colangelo said. "But the risks involved in that kind of activity are outlined in the UPC."


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