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Volume 24 No. 117

Leagues and Governing Bodies

As the standoff continues between the NBPA Exec Committee and Thunder G and union President Derek Fisher, questions are being asked about whether DC-based law firm Patton Boggs was properly retained for a review of the union’s business practices. Sources said Patton Boggs was hired after Fisher held a conference call with four other Exec Committee members on April 13. Five NBPA player members are needed to have a quorum, and it would have taken at least a majority vote (three votes) of that group to hire an outside firm. Patton Boggs informed NBPA staff on April 15 that it was retained, sources said. But now, according to two sources, two of the five players are saying they personally did not vote, and a third said he dropped off the call before a vote was taken. Another source said there was a vote taken and that the measure passed 5-0, adding that there were minutes taken of the conference call that were provided to Exec Committee members. This source declined to provide the minutes, saying they represent confidential union business. All sources requested anonymity, saying they did not want to be identified discussing internal union strife. Attempts to reach Fisher for comment through his representatives were unsuccessful. Christina Sarchio, the Patton Boggs partner who sources said contacted the NBPA about the business review, declined comment via e-mail. NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter declined comment via text message. The April 13 conference call was a players-only call that Hunter was not invited to join, sources said. The full, nine-member NBPA Exec Committee held a subsequent call on April 16, during which the members voted to reverse the decision to hire Patton Boggs, multiple sources said. Sources said Fisher joined that call late. It was not clear why the committee would have had a vote to reverse the decision to hire the law firm if the firm was not properly hired in the first place. “There was a lot of confusion about what happened on Friday (April 13),” one source said. “They began sorting it out on Monday (April 16).”

NO CONFIDENCE VOTE: The Exec Committee last Wednesday convened another conference call and voted 8-0 that they had “no confidence” in Fisher’s leadership and asked for his resignation as player president. Fisher was not on that call. The NBPA issued a press release on Friday announcing that the Exec Committee voted 8-0 for Fisher’s resignation. “The Executive Committee based its decision on numerous instances over the past six months where Fisher engaged in conduct detrimental to the union, including acting in contravention of the players’ best interests during collective bargaining, declining to follow the NBPA Constitution, and failing to uphold the duties of the Union President,” the NBPA press release stated. Fisher responded later in the evening Friday with his own press release vowing not to resign and stating the allegations against him were defamatory. Fisher stated that an independent review of the business practices and finances of the NPBA should be conducted. Fisher: “I have tried to convey the legal and moral obligations we have as union officers. Sadly, the Executive Committee has now waged a personal character attack on me to divert attention from the real issue. The truth."

The ATP World Tour formally approved the sale of the Memphis tour stop to a Brazilian joint venture, and the San Jose event will relocate to Memphis. The moves will occur in '14, meaning San Jose will have a farewell run next February. The new Memphis event will be an ATP 250, meaning it will not attract as many top players as the current version. The ATP ranks its top nine events as 1000s, the next 11 (including Memphis) as 500s, and the remaining as 250s. Sharks Sports & Entertainment (SSE) currently owns both events and has agreed to sell the Memphis one to IMG’s Brazil joint venture with IMX. The event will begin in Rio de Janeiro in '14. The ATP board agreed to the move last week, and to the closing of the San Jose stop. “The ATP will determine the calendar and format for 2014 and 2015, as part of its normal process later this year,” said ATP Exec VP/Marketing & Communications Kate Gordon (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). In Memphis, Phil Stukenborg notes that Memphis has held a pro tennis event "annually at The Racquet Club since 1976." SSE Exec VP/Business Development Mike Lehr said, "We made a commitment when we bought (the Memphis tournament and The Racquet Club in 2008). My opinion is it’s a good venue. There’s a lot we can do when we have a single ATP tournament there as far as making it a bigger event" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 4/24).

LEAVING A VOID: In S.F., Ron Kroichick notes the elimination of San Jose's event "did not come as entirely surprising news, given the SAP Open's struggle to attract top players and sizable crowds in recent years." But it "still counted as a jolt in many ways, given the Bay Area's rich tennis tradition." Lehr said, "The history and longevity of pro tennis in the Bay Area is definitely something we didn't take lightly. That's one reason we're going to continue to try to find ways to bring tennis to San Jose." Lehr was "referring to potential exhibition matches, ideally involving some of the sport's big names." SSE will "remain involved in the tennis business." Lehr "traced attendance woes in the Bay Area to the limitations of HP Pavilion." He said, "Part of it was the single court, and having to spread out the tournament a lot differently than in a facility with multiple courts" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/24).