Since the ugly lockout of ’11 when many players felt executive director Billy Hunter negotiated them a raw deal, the NBA Players Association has been pushing him towards the plank.
Many of The League’s stars felt Hunter no longer had their best interests in mind and had gotten cozy during his 17-year reign. On Saturday, they gave Hunter his walking papers.
“We will no longer be divided, misled, misinformed,” National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher said, at a terse news conference following the decision. “This is our union. We’re taking it back.”
Inspired by an impassioned plea by LeBron James, Jerry Stackhouse and Andre Iguodala to reevaluate the direction of the union, NBA players voted 24-0 Saturday to oust Hunter following a ship-sinking independent report by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. The report accuses Hunter of nepotism and other potential misappropriation of funds, bringing the validity of his contract into question.
Fisher confirmed that Hunter being under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office, the New York State attorney general and the Department of Labor for potential criminal business practices in the past, including overseeing the union’s charitable foundation, influenced the decision.
A group of about 40 NBA players gathered Saturday afternoon in Houston and made a decision that is not sitting well with Hunter, who wants the $10.5 million left under the 5-year, $15 million contract extension that he previously signed. Hunter claims he was done dirty, and if he can prove he was fired without just cause, he can collect the rest of that scratch. Hunter’s retort was that none of the incidents reported—including hiring two of his daughters or directing union financial business to an investment firm that employs his son—swelled to the level of criminal conduct. He also maintained that his contract, which pays an annual salary of about $3 million, did receive proper oversight, per NBPA by-laws.
Early candidates to replace Hunter include Donald Fehr, former MLB union chief and current head of the NHL players union, and B. Todd Jones, the current U.S. Attorney for Minnesota and acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Fehr is a polished negotiator who recently helped negotiate the ’12 NHL Lockout, but he’s not expected to leave that position.
According to sportsbusinessdaily.com, former Madison Square Garden Sports COO Steve Mills and attorneys David Cornwell and Len Elmore, are also listed as potential replacements for Hunter.
Mills, 53, left MSG in ’09 to take part in business ventures with Magic Johnson, and is the current CEO and partner of a wealth management venture for the entertainment industry. Mills took part in three collective bargaining agreements with the NBA, the Knicks and the WNBA and is known to be top choice with the players.