It seems every time you turn on your computer, another NBA player or agent has come out calling for Billy Hunter to be removed as head of the National Basketball Players Association, or what we just call the players’ union.
Recently it was Paul Pierce. Today it was Jerry Stackhouse. And not shockingly agent David Falk thinks it is time for Hunter to ride off into the sunset.
But Hunter continues to defend himself and told Howard Beck of the New York Times why he should be able to hold on to the job he has had since 1996 despite a recent audit by an independent legal team that raised a number of red flags surrounding issues of nepotism and questions of where money was spent. Oh, and there’s the matter of a joint federal investigation by the United States attorney’s office and the Labor Department. Which is never a good sign.
Hunter maintained he did nothing wrong and bristled at the idea he put personal and family interests ahead of the players.
“That’s not true,” he said. “Never. Absolutely not true. Absolutely not true.”
These couple graphs seemed to sum up what Hunter faces and his reaction.
Among the more significant concerns cited in the audit were Hunter’s hiring of family members; his receipt of a $1.3 million vacation payout that was inadequately documented; the decision to spend $80,000 in “due diligence” on a possible investment in a failing bank that had ties to his son; and questionable travel expenses. Hunter called the report “just a lot of little things.”
“It’s almost like you put enough together, and you throw it up against the wall, hopefully something will stick,” he said. “But when you look at them each individually, we can rebut them.”
One other thing Hunter made clear in the interview — he intends to get paid. He has $10.5 million remaining on his contract and while the independent report questioned if the contract was properly approved, Hunter and his attorney said it was and implied they were ready to go to court to make sure he gets his money.
You get the feeling the buyout is the key. It’s hard to see how Hunter survives in his job with a rising tide forming against him. He likely gets voted out All-Star weekend. The question is simply how much is the union is going to have to pay him to make this all go away and let them move on to whomever is next in that seat.