Suspended NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter, in his first interview since the Jan. 17 release of an independent audit of NBPA practices, yesterday "passionately defended his record and his reputation, and he indicated that he would not leave without a fight," according to Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. The 65-minute interview was “conducted at the Newark offices of his lawyer, Thomas Ashley." Hunter said, “I intend to exercise all my options, as of this moment.” Beck notes Hunter is owed $10.5M on a contract that "runs through 2016." Hunter said that he "expected to be paid the balance if he is fired.” He acknowledged that his contract “had not been approved by a two-thirds vote of the union’s executive committee and board of player representatives, as the audit stated.” But he and Ashley said that the requirement “pertains specifically to the hiring of a new executive director and not to subsequent contract renewals.” Hunter spent “much of the interview rebutting specific allegations raised in the audit, in some cases providing broader context and in other cases dismissing their significance altogether.” But most of his explanations “were already contained in the report.” Hunter said, “It’s almost like you put enough together, and you throw it up against the wall, hopefully something will stick. But when you look at them each individually, we can rebut them.” Hunter “wants to address” the union at its Feb. annual meeting, but it is not clear if NBPA President Derek Fisher "will permit him to attend the meeting.” Hunter: “I assume that between now and then that Derek will be doing everything he can to stack the deck so that they have the appropriate players in place to vote according to their request or plan.” Beck writes Hunter yesterday “was unusually subdued, his spirit sapped by the battle for his career.” Hunter: “It’s had a negative impact on my family” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7).
Leagues and Governing Bodies
NBA Commissioner David Stern said he expects the league by next season "will do blood testing for HGH." Speaking on WCCO-AM's "The Chad Hartman Show," Stern said HGH currently is on the NBA's banned substance list, but "there hasn’t been a favored testing protocol yet." However, the league is watching "what’s going on in baseball" and monitoring the negotiations in the NFL. Stern: “Our players have been terrific here. They lead this in some ways, saying, ‘We do not want to have anything less than the best.’” Hartman noted unlike the NFL and MLB, the NBA “has stayed out of the headlines in this.” Stern said, “Because we tend to be quiet on this subject, no one focuses on our testing program” (WCCO-AM, 2/6). Knicks C Tyson Chandler said of a prospective HGH test, “I think it’s good. They can test for everything as far as I’m concerned. There is no need for any drug in any game whether its steroids or HGH or anything that can give a player an edge.” Knicks F Kurt Thomas: “It was just a matter of time before the NBA tests for it and I think it’s a good idea” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/7).
A SIGN OF THE TIMES: CBSSPORTS.com’s Zach Harper wrote with steroids and HGH “being phased out with stricter drug testing” in MLB and the NFL, the NBA is the “other major sports league that needs to be able to monitor the use of HGH among its players.” It is “not a big concern that players are currently using it in the NBA, but to not have the test in place anyway seems to be ignoring the possibility and living behind the times.” Such a move is “sure to be implemented" before Stern cedes his role to NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/6). YAHOO SPORTS’ Eric Freeman noted the NBA for the most part “has not been involved in the biggest scandals involving PEDs.” Stern wants to bring in HGH testing “as a sort of preventative measure, or maybe even an attempt to find out if there's a previously unidentified problem” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/6).
The NFLPA yesterday asked a federal appeals court to stay the union’s own appeal of a lower court decision denying the group from proceeding with a collusion claim against the NFL. The lower court had dismissed the collusion claim, finding the NFLPA had ceded its right to sue in the '11 dismissal of the settlement agreement that had governed labor relations between the two sides for nearly two decades. The NFLPA now is arguing before the lower court in Minnesota that it was misled into signing the dismissal because the NFL hid the alleged secret salary cap the union contends existed in '10. Until the lower court decides that motion, the NFLPA asked the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to stay the union appeal filed just last week. The 8th Circuit had already issued a briefing schedule for the case.
Top Rank on Tuesday signed two-time Gold Medal-winning Chinese boxer Zou Shiming to a professional contract, and he "has the potential to change the very nature of the sport," according to Kevin Iole of YAHOO SPORTS. Zou became the "first Chinese boxer to win an Olympic medal when he earned a bronze at light flyweight" in '04. Getting Zou signed and set to "headline a show is going to fast forward his dream of making Asia a major market for American promoters." One possibility of "what it could mean is that some major fights that were previously destined for a Las Vegas casino could wind up in an Asian casino." It "doesn't necessarily mean that all of the top pay-per-view shows would head to China, but it will clearly present an alternative" to Las Vegas, L.A. and N.Y. if "timing logistics can be worked out." Boxing PPV shows in the U.S. "generally begin" at 9:00pm ET, when it would be 8:00am the following day in Macau. Zou will "headline his pro debut April 6 in Macau." Iole: "Long-term, though, Top Rank could have stars such as Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire featured on major shows there." The "issue preventing it from occurring" is that PPV emanating from outside the U.S. have "historically done poorly." Top Rank Chair Bob Arum "estimated a loss" of as much as 50% of potential sales. If that can be "overcome, a floodgate could be opened and the Asian market could quickly become a legitimate pay-per-view destination" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/6).