SBD/February 4, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter Stripped Of All Duties During Indefinite Suspension

Hunter currently is banned from visiting the NBPA's HQs in Harlem
NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter has “effectively been stripped of all duties” while serving an indefinite suspension, according to Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. Hunter is “barred from visiting the union’s office in Harlem and from using any union resources, including e-mail and credit cards.” His future is “likely to be decided Feb. 16, when the union holds its annual meeting at All-Star weekend in Houston.” The movement to “oust Hunter is already gaining steam.” Several NBAers have “publicly called for a change in leadership, and one of the NBA’s most influential agents, Arn Tellem, has urged his clients to fire Hunter.” Sources said that "at least 10 teams, including the Nets, are already committed to firing Hunter.” Nets F and NBPA rep Kris Humphries on Friday said, “Everyone I’ve talked to, it’s pretty clear that they’re looking for a change.” Bulls F and alternate player rep Joakim Noah said, “I don’t think the players are too happy, to be honest with you. I think there’s a lot of explaining to be done” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/2). The NBPA said that its All-Star Weekend meeting in Houston “may be revised so all players can attend without conflict.” Hunter's attorney Thomas Ashley said that his client “had been treated unfairly and had already taken steps to improve the union.” The AP’s Brian Mahoney noted Hunter “received a contract extension in 2010 to run through at least through 2015, yet the review said the players would have ‘powerful arguments’ if an attempt to remove him led to litigation” (AP, 2/1). 

PLAYERS WEIGH IN: Hornets G and NBPA VP Roger Mason Jr. said, "Personally, (I have a) lot of respect for Billy. I know he's a man of integrity. I know this is a tough time for our union. We have to get the facts. ... We'll get to the bottom of everything and everything will come to light at some point." CBSSPORTS.com’s Matt Moore reported Suns F and NBPA player rep Jared Dudley and Knicks F Steve Novak are "among players voicing their concern with Hunter.” Mason “seemingly voted in favor of placing Hunter on the leave of absence, as the vote was reportedly unanimous” (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/1). In Boston, Gary Washburn reported Celtics F and player rep Paul Pierce on Friday “called for the removal” of Hunter (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/3). In Salt Lake City, Bill Oram wrote Jazz G and player rep Mo Williams views Hunter's removal as "important stuff.” Williams said, "We are going forward as a union to try and get everything back on track. Obviously some things have been going on that we, as players, are trying to get more information about." Williams said that last season’s lockout “made players more aware of union issues” (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 2/2).

HUNTER OR THE HUNTED? The BOSTON GLOBE’s Washburn wrote, "There appears to be a split in the ranks on Hunter, with many players wildly supportive because he has served as a father figure, and others believing he was soundly defeated in the last two labor negotiations by commissioner David Stern.” The question that will be answered in two weeks is “whether Hunter’s major adjustments have come too late.” Many players will “ask themselves whether Hunter would have made these changes” had NBPA President Derek Fisher “not called for this independent review” (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/3). SPORTS ON EARTH’s Gwen Knapp wrote Hunter’s behavior as leader of the union “has empowered the wrong people.” His contract “may not have spelled this out, but Hunter had to be pristine.” He had the “fates of hundreds of young men” in his hands and “allowing for a distinct appearance of impropriety amounted to a fumble.” His actions within the NBA “ultimately abetted agents who want more control of the union.” Hunter “weakened the ground below unions in the next rounds of negotiations” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 2/3). 

NEXT ITEM ON THE AGENDA: SPORTING NEWS’ David Steele wrote the process of the NBA players “shoving Hunter out has begun,” and the evidence “against him is damning.” But as “usually is the case, they’d better have an idea about who can do a better job for them the next time the league goes after them.” Steele: “Against the will of this generation of owners, determined to take everything and give nothing, can any union leader, clean hands or not, expect to win?” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 2/2). TRUE HOOPS’ Henry Abbott wrote, "Hunter's power, we have since learned, had grown to be nearly limitless within the union's gleaming Harlem headquarters.” Hunter's opposition “was absent, silent or (in the case of Pat Garrity a few years ago) shouted down.” Abbott: “How much better off might NBA players have been simply to have had an executive director focused more on executive directing?” Perhaps now, with Hunter “on indefinite leave and longtime staff attorney Ron Klempner filling in, the union can, for the first time in a long time, focus on serving the players more and the union's leader less” (ESPN.com, 2/1).
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