NBPA Meet To Discuss Current CBA Offer

New report suggests financial, ethical issues at NBA players union


UPDATE 6:39 pm: Union Executive Director Billy Hunter released a statement. What you think of it pretty much describes what you think of Hunter. Here it is in its entirety:

“The NBPA is currently reviewing the full independent special report simultaneous with the public. While I strongly disagree with some of the findings contained in the report, I am pleased it recognized that I have not engaged in criminal acts nor was I involved in misappropriation of union funds. Regarding my contract — my third in a long tenure of the organization — it was ratified by the NBPA Executive Committee and signed by President Derek Fisher. I believe the contract and extensions are valid. I am pleased to discuss with the Player Representative board any concerns about my contract.

“In my work for the NBPA, my priority has always been to promote the interests of the players. Through the benefit of hindsight, as with any executive, there are always things that could have been done better. But on the major issue, I am pleased that this report has confirmed what I have always known and said, I did nothing illegal.

“During my tenure, the salaries of NBA players have more than doubled and they are the highest paid athletes in the world. When I arrived at the NBPA in 1996 the challenges were significant. The Union’s financial liabilities exceeded its assets. Today the Union is solvent and its financial future is secure. The Union and players endured two lengthy and costly lockouts. Our greatest accomplishment is the unity and solidarity that the players maintained throughout those very difficult rounds of bargaining.

“Prior to the report’s issuance, the NBPA began implementation of some of the recommendations suggested, including a revised hiring policy and a new anti-nepotism policy. I look forward to continuing my work with the NBPA, adopting additional recommendations from the report and opening a new chapter of NBPA governance. I believe through these steps the NBPA will emerge from this review a stronger organization and continue to meet the needs of its membership. I will be reaching out to the membership to discuss the report and address ways to pursue the best path forward for the NBPA.”

3:47 pm: During the NBA lockout there was clearly a divide within the National Basketball Players Association (the NBA players union) — it was sort of “are you with executive director Billy Hunter or not?”

The lockout ending didn’t end the dispute. On Thursday the results of an investigation into the union raised a lot of questions about how the union does business. That includes Hunter’s own $15 million contract not going through the proper approval process.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and the NBC Sports Network has the details on what the report by the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison found. For the record they found no criminal issues with the union, but a whole lot of red flags on other issues saying Hunter put personal issues and interests ahead of the players and the union.

As previously reported by Yahoo! Sports, Hunter “never told the union’s executive committee or player representatives that his current employment contract, which was executed in 2010, was not properly approved under the union’s By-Laws, even though by at least November 2011 outside counsel to the Union had told Mr. Hunter that the necessary approval had not occurred and remained necessary.”

• As detailed in an April report by Y! Sports, Hunter “involved family and friends in union business as employees or vendors without full disclosure and the disinterested approval of the union’s officers and directors.”

• “Created an atmosphere at the NBPA that discouraged challenges to his authority, including by allowing the union’s former general counsel, Gary Hall, to stop former secretary-treasurer Pat Garrity from speaking freely about conflicts of interest to the executive committee.”

So, he acted like every other executive in a suit in New York.

Hunter, no doubt, will challenge all the claims made. I’m not going to guess who is right and who is wrong. In a lot of ways this is a power struggle so everything is spin.

The real question is what is next. The union as a whole is scheduled to meet All-Star Weekend in Houston, you can bet this comes up. Is it time for a change in leadership at the union? If so, what direction do they go? Or, is it better to let Hunter stay and try to clean up issues.

Why it matters to fans is this — in five years you can bet one side is going to opt out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was just formalized and signed more than a year ago. Who sits at the negotiating table when that happens matters. For the owners it will be Adam Silver, the current deputy commissioner tagged to take over the big chair when David Stern steps down in 2014.

Who sits in the chair for the players union (along with economic and other factors) will determine whether things get resolved or if the NBA goes the way of the NHL with its labor fights.

Billy Hunter made $3 million last year, landed a 25 percent raise during lockout

Billy Hunter

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.

Hunter: Jeremy Lin could wind up on NBPA executive committee

Sacramento Kings v New York Knicks

Jeremy Lin has been at the forefront of the positive things to help lead the NBA out of lockout hell. And it turns out, he could be at the forefront of what winds up leading us back into it in six to ten years. Billy Hunter recently told Bloomberg that Lin is likely to wind up as the player’s representative to the NBPA and could get a spot on the executive committee. From Bloomberg:

Jeremy Lin probably will be the next player representative for the New York Knicks and might win a spot on the union’s executive committee, the head of the National Basketball Association players union said.

Billy Hunter said Lin, the second-year point guard with an economics degree from Harvard University who has led the Knicks on a seven-game winning streak and sparked what’s become dubbed “Linsanity,” expressed an interest to be more involved in the National Basketball Players Association.“

At the least he’d be the player representative for the Knicks,” Hunter said in a telephone interview. “If not something higher.”

via Knicks’ Lin May Utilize Harvard More Than Hoops as NBA Union Rep – Bloomberg.

See, because he’s wicked smaht.

I’m torn on this one, because at one level, Lin shouldn’t have to be treated any differently from any other NBA player just because he happens to have a higher IQ or series of test scores than the average player, nor should his expectations for being some sort of genius exist just because he went to Harvard. Lots of people went to Harvard. (I did not go to Harvard. They would not let me go to Harvard.)

But on the other, Lin’s sudden explosion is affording him opportunities, and let’s face it, the more brains the NBPA can get on the exec committee the better. Which isn’t to say the committee isn’t comprised of smart individuals, “How U” to the contrary. But they did run out of options and inventive solutions during the beatdown throughout the lockout (though, all things considered, they came out pretty well. This is complicated. And giving me flashbacks. I hate you, lockout.)

It’s another opportunity Lin is playing his way into. Which is nice for him, really.

Could Al Horford be the next Players Association president?

Al Horford
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After watching the grind that Derek Fisher went through this summer as president of the National Basketball Players Association — the players union — it’s hard to imagine a lot of guys lining up for that job. Then again, look at the pressure and public beating any United States president takes and you wonder why anyone would seek that job as well, yet plenty of candidates (qualified and not so qualified) line up every four years.

Fisher will be on the job as the president of the union as long as he is on the job as the Lakers point guard (such as it is). He seemed one rational head in a room filled with irrationality this summer. He got good reviews from both sides.

But who is next? How about Al Horford, suggests Marc Stein at ESPN.

File away Horford’s name as a likely down-the-road top contender to succeed the Lakers’ Derek Fisher as president of the players’ union….

But when Fisher has had enough — he has two years left on a four-year term after re-election in 2009 — word is that Horford will draw strong consideration as his successor.

Horford, like Fisher, appears level headed. What is interesting is that during the 1999 lockout the union leadership was mostly star players, then after that a concerted effort was put in place to make the leadership more representative of all players. That mandate may stay for the union’s executive committee, but the All-Star Horford would be back to big names.

It may not be a huge issue for a few years, the next opt-out in the Collective Bargaining Agreement is in 2017, six years into the 10-year deal.

It’s official — there is an NBA players’ union again

NBA Labor Basketball
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And to the joy and relief of us all, there is again an NBA players’ union.

Actually, if you want to see NBA games on Christmas, it’s a good thing that a majority of NBA players voted to reform the union. Actually, well over a majority, with more than 300 of the roughly 450 members sending back forms.

The union dissolved as the players’ negotiating body Nov. 14 when it filed a disclaimer of interest. The union needed to reform to negotiate the details of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. (What David Stern and Billy Hunter agreed to as a framework of the deal was technically the settlement of the antitrust lawsuits players filed against the league.)

The unionized players are expected to ratify the new CBA next week, in time for training camps to open Dec. 9.

Then games resume on Christmas Day.