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Volume 24 No. 156

Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter “purged family members from union roles after a report was critical of nepotism at the organization,” according to Scott Soshnick of BLOOMBERG NEWS. The moves to dismiss personnel "including his daughter and daughter-in-law were disclosed in a letter from Hunter to members of a special committee of players established prior to the investigation.” Hunter in the letter wrote that one of his daughters, Robyn Hunter, “ceased working at the union on Jan. 25.” NBPA Dir of Special Events & Sponsorships Megan Inaba, Hunter’s daughter-in-law, “will leave on Feb. 17” after the NBA’s All-Star Weekend. Billy Hunter also “secured a letter of resignation from Prim Capital, which employs his son, Todd.” Another of Hunter's daughters, Alexis, is a “special counsel at a law firm used by the union," but his letter “didn’t refer" to her. The changes came about two weeks after the investigation of the NBPA's business practices found that Hunter "put personal interests ahead of the association, failed to manage conflicts of interest, and didn’t have proper approval for his five-year, $15 million contract as director.” Hunter’s letter to the committee said that the NBPA “would adopt policies related to conflicts of interest, hiring and document retention.” It also said that he “would eliminate unspecified positions at the union and adjust the salaries of others to bring them in line with market rates” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 1/29).

LETTER FOR LETTER: In N.Y., Howard Beck reports Wasserman Media Group Vice Chair and NBA player agent Arn Tellem is “calling for the ouster” of Hunter, a step Tellem is “urging his clients to take" during the annual players meeting at NBA All-Star Weekend. Tellem “outlined his position in a 1,500-word letter sent to his players Monday night.” Tellem in the letter “blasts Hunter’s record” as the union's leader and “accuses him of using the union for personal gain.” Tellem wrote, “NBA players deserve better representation from the union they fund. I implore you and your fellow players to take control of your union and your future. It’s time for Mr. Hunter to go.” Beck notes Tellem is the “first major agent to call for Hunter’s dismissal,” and Tellem's "influence is considerable.” Tellem “seems likely to find significant support for the stand he is taking, given the intense disdain for Hunter that several other major agents share with Tellem.” WMG represents "about 50 current players, about 12 percent of the union’s membership, more than any other agency" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/30).

Reaction at yesterday's Super Bowl Media Day to recent comments by Ravens S Bernard Pollard and President Obama about head injuries in football included "some agreeing with Pollard that recent rules changes would change the sport to such an extent that it would be less entertaining and lead to a loss of popularity," according to Benjamin Hoffman of the N.Y. TIMES. 49ers FS Dashon Goldson and SS Donte Whitner said that they "thought the key was not removing big hits, but making sure the hits that are delivered are legal." Former NFLer Warren Sapp was "one of the few people to disagree entirely with Pollard's view." He said that a "desire for points would always result in defenses being limited." Pollard yesterday said that while he was "comfortable with the physical risk he was taking by playing football, he was not sure he would want future generations, including his 4-year-old son, to follow his example." Pollard: "God has blessed me with a tremendous talent to be able to play this game. But we want our kids to have better things than us." Ravens QB Joe Flacco said, "I play the game and I understand that I’m going to get hit" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/30). In N.Y., Greg Bishop notes Ravens C Matt Birk spent much of Media Day "talking about head injuries and brain donations and President Obama’s recent comments." Birk "talked about how he has worked with companies to help develop a device that measures the impact of collisions." He said that the device "would provide instant feedback on the impact of hits that are not as evident as a broken bone or a twisted knee." While Birk said that he would "donate his brain for research, he also said he would let his children play football" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/30).

CALLED OFF: Former NFLer Kyle Turley said that LSU officials have "put the kibosh" on an event scheduled for tomorrow to highlight brain problems among former players. In New Orleans, John Simerman notes the event "was sponsored by the LSU Medical Student Association and a group called Ethikos." The school is "refusing to comment on the cancellation" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/30).

DC-based government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington (CREW) yesterday released a report entitled "Defensive Game," in which it broke down the federal lobbying spending of the NFL and NFLPA during the '12 calendar year. The report shows that the NFL last year spent $1.14M on federal lobbying, an increase of more than five times its spending in '02. Meanwhile, the NFLPA saw its spending triple from $40,000 in '02 to $120,000 in '12. CREW Exec Dir Melanie Sloan in the report said, "With increasing scrutiny and coverage of the lasting, debilitating effects football careers can have on players’ health, the NFL has gone into damage control mode -- pumping up its lobbying spending and donations to influential members of Congress." During the '12 election cycle, the NFL's Political Action Committee known as Gridiron-PAC contributed $838,000 to federal candidates, PACs and party committees -- an increase of 26% from the '10 election cycle (CREW). View the full report here.