Ousted NBA players union boss may seek legal action
Billy Hunter represented union for 17 years
Billy Hunter, who was ousted Saturday as executive director of the NBA Players Association in a unanimous vote by player representatives, may be gearing up for potential legal action against the union.
"Given the legitimate legal and governance questions surrounding the eligibility of the members who voted and the adherence, or lack thereof, to the constitution and bylaws, I do not consider today's vote the end, only a different beginning," Hunter said in a statement. "My legal representatives and I will resume communication with the NBPA to determine how to best move forward in the best interests of all parties."
Hunter also said he had not officially been given notice of his firing, adding that "certain individuals (of the union's new interim executive committee) made sure the outcome was pre-ordained."
Hunter's lawyers said he has not been given due process as he was not invited to the players' meeting. In addition, Hunter's attorneys reportedly appear ready to sue the union to honor the more than $10 million that Hunter is still owed on his contract with the NBAPA, according to several media reports.
"After 17 years of representing NBA players during CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) negotiations and defending their rights in other proceedings, not once was there an occasion where one side was denied an opportunity to be heard," Hunter said in Saturday's statement. "The current interim regime in control of the NBPA has set a terrible precedent for the union. It violates every tenet of fairness upon which the union was founded.
"Now that this has occurred, I will continue to examine all of my options, including whether the fairness that was absent from the NBPA process might be available in a different forum."
In announcing cutting ties with Hunter, former Dallas Mavericks guard and players association president Derek Fisher said, "This is our union and we have taken it back."
The union placed Hunter on a forced leave of absence on Feb. 1, replacing him on an interim basis by union attorney Ron Klempner.
Fisher appears ready for a legal fight against Hunter, 70, who has led the players union since 1996.
"We do not doubt that this process will possibly continue in an ugly way," Fisher said. "We want to make it clear that we are here to serve only the best interests of the players. No threats, no lies, no distractions will stop us from serving our memberships."
During the 2011 lockout, Hunter and Fisher clashed repeatedly, eventually leading to Hunter to ask the union's executive committee to vote to seek Fisher's resignation. Fisher refused to resign and, in an action some considered retaliatory, pushed for an independent outside review of Hunter and his actions while in office, which reportedly cost the union more than $4 million.
Hunter has overseen three collective bargaining agreements that has raised the average players' salary to more than $5 million, the highest in professional team sports.
Hunter is reportedly the target of three investigations by the United States Attorney's Office, the US Department of Labor and the New York Attorney General's office.
Last month, an independent audit that was released questioned Hunter's business and hiring practices. It included accusing him of nepotism and abusing union resources for personal gain. It concluded that Hunter placed personal interests ahead of the players union's, but found no criminal wrongdoing. The audit was completed by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
Hunter had been criticized for hiring family members, ultimately leading him to fire his daughter and daughter-in-law, and also cut ties with a financial institution that employed his son. He also instituted an anti-nepotism policy at the NPBA.
NBA commissioner David Stern was asked about Hunter's ouster, but had little comment.
"We await notification from the union as to who we should be dealing with because it has been a principle of faith with us that we will deal with whomever the union tells us to deal with," Stern said.
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