USA Today discovered a department of labor filing with regards to Billy Hunter’s salary with the NBPA last year, much of which was spent during the lockout of the NBPA by the owners in the labor dispute. Mr. Hunter did quite well for himself.
National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter was paid $3 million from July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012, a $600,000 — or 25% — raise over the previous year, according to NBPA documents filed Friday with the United States Department of Labor.
via NBPA filing with labor department details Hunter’s salary, payments to family members.
Just to review this, the NBPA paid Hunter $600,000 more last year so that they could lose 5.8 percentage points in BRI just in the first year, with more in subsequent years, and lose 16 games worth of pay. That’s clearly money well spent.
USA Today also outlines all the exorbitant legal fees paid to various consulting law firms during the lockout, including those who hired Hunter’s children. The union doled out some serious cash in a losing effort. Hunter has been under scrutiny, particularly from ousted NBPA president Derek Fisher over where the money went over the last several years, with an investigation still pending.
This certainly doesn’t make Hunter look good, but there’s no telling how much Hunter donated during the lockout, and it’s hard to gauge whether Hunter did a good job during the lockout or not. The players lost a ton of money, but the owners also had massive leverage. There were reasons for the loss, and Hunter deserves to make a living like anyone.
But $3 million dollars? During the exact period where the union got squashed, the very thing Hunter’s paid to prevent? Not a good look.
“We certainly didn’t achieve all we needed to achieve. I’ve said it multiple times that in the old CBA, financially, teams were drowning in 10 feet of water, now we’re drowning in two feet of water. It’ll be interesting. Obviously the Nets just went out and spent a boatload of money. It’ll be interesting to see if that works for them or against them.”
— Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban talking about the lockout that almost cost the league last season, on ESPN Radio in Dallas (an interview we’ve already quoted a couple times), via Sports Radio Interviews.
The NBA owners want more money — no matter how much they have they will want a bigger slice of the pie. In the last lockout they got a lot from players and really tried to shift the finances of the league. But as Cuban pointed out the Nets will have a massive, long-term payroll and the Lakers next year (and likely the next couple years) will spend $17 million more than anyone else to field a team. You think small market owners think they can still compete? You think that will not fuel them to push for more changes that will not benefit players?
We don’t know what the financial landscape of the NBA will be in five years when either side (owners or players) can opt out of the current CBA. But you can bet one side will. And as Cuban says, the owners don’t think they got enough yet… although if they are drowning in two feet of water, that’s on them.
If you believe the league’s numbers — and we’re still skeptical, to put it kindly — the NBA was a long way from turning a profit, they predicted a $300 million loss last year.
A few months into the new collective bargaining agreement that is far more favorable to the owners (no matter what Mark Cuban thinks), the league has not turned those losses around. At an All-Star Weekend press conference Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said that the league will not turn a profit this year and may not next year.
It seems odd to say that at a time when NBA television ratings are skyrocketing and attendance is up overall. The players have taken pay cuts to lower costs. So costs are down, the NBA’s popularity is booming and profits are not?
Henry Abbott went into more detail and shows why there is some logic to that at TrueHoop.
The explanation from the league is that the cuts in player costs roughly match the losses from last year. But this year the league says there were an additional $200 million in losses related to the lockout, for instance due to lost ticket revenue and corporate sponsorships that didn’t happen.
More importantly, popularity only equals big changes in revenue over years. The most obvious way that happens is with more lucrative national TV deals, but the old deals are still in place for two more years. High TV ratings have not meant new TV revenues for the league. Corporate sponsorships similarly take time to develop.
Where the popularity will really show is in local television and other media deals, particularly the national broadcast rights which are up in 2016. But the league is right, it’s a year or several years before those eyeballs can be converted to cash. Now, if we’re having this same discussion if five years, if the league can’t turn all those additional eyeballs into profits, then they are doing it wrong.