Infighting within union spills over into media labor reports

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The NBA players are not a unified front right now. And the cracks are showing in varied media reports.

On one side you have the hardliners, as represented in Jason Whitlock’s piece at Fox Sports over the weekend. One which said that union director Billy Hunter had to confront union president Derek Fisher because Fisher was willing to give in to the owners’ 50/50 demand. He intimated Fisher was in bed with Stern to get a job with the league after he retired. Whitlock followed that up with a story pointing out Fisher’s letter to the players did not mention Hunter and saying Fisher is in denial of what most union members want.

Then there is almost a rebuttal piece by Adrian at Yahoo Tuesday saying union members and leaders are growing dissatisfied with Hunter and want him out.

After Billy Hunter made the grand stand of marching out of Friday’s bargaining session, refusing to negotiate below 52 percent of the NBA’s revenue split, there emerged a strong movement within the Players Association that’s vows the union will never let him act so unilaterally again.

From superstars to midlevel players to rookies, there’s an unmistakable push to complete the final elements of the system and take this labor deal to the union’s 400-plus membership. Beyond that, there’s an even larger movement to push Hunter, the Players Association’s executive director, out the door once these labor talks are done. All hell’s broken loose within the union, and no one is exactly sure how they’re going to get a deal to the finish line.

Ken Berger at CBSSports.com also throws the agents under the bus.

Here’s my takeaway — there is a real sharp divide in the union. What you are seeing is just the lava bubbling to the surface, but the rift is deep and getting deeper. And that is going to make it harder to get a deal done and approved.

On one hand you have the hardliners, plus agents. They do not want to go below 52 percent of the BRI for players. They are represented by Whitlock and his source who are calling Fisher a softie and pushing the union not to give in. On the other hand you have what is a growing sense among players (including some I heard from) that it is time to get a deal done. That the losses are starting to outweigh the gains. It’s hard to say how many players are in which camp.

Without a unified union, getting a deal that Fisher and Hunter can get approved becomes nearly impossible. And that’s bad for everyone… except the owners.

One other note: Being based out of Los Angeles I have talked to Derek Fisher plenty of times. He is about the most straightforward person I have ever met. (Sorry Utah, I don’t think there was a grand plan by him.) I find it impossible to believe he has a side deal set up with the league. That is not who Fisher is at his core. That said, the league would be smart to try and hire him in some capacity when he does retire.