HOUSTON – In an expected and in what many players felt was a necessary move, the National Basketball Association Players Association ousted executive director Billy Hunter on Saturday afternoon, as president Derek Fisher made the announcement in a brief press conference at a downtown hotel.
Fisher said he will remain president of the NBPA with San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner as vice president. The move to remove Hunter is yet another chapter in what has become an internal melodrama plagued by infighting in the union.
In April 2012, the executive committee voted 8-0 to ask Fisher for his resignation, the first major sign there was a power struggle and dissension between Fisher and Hunter. Fisher refused to resign and instead called for an investigation into Hunter’s tactics as executive director.
In January, an independent firm investigated several accusations of Hunter and the union and released a scathing review of Hunter’s conduct as executive director. And although no criminal or illegal actions were discovered, the report called for several major changes in the union, accusing Hunter of nepotism, ratifying his lucrative contract extension without full union approval, taking excessive vacation time, investing union money in his son’s fledging bank and also using union funds to purchase gifts for union members.
Hunter quickly fired his family members, reduced the power of his own post and adjusted other union regulations but many players felt the move was desperate and far too late. Celtics forward Paul Pierce, the team’s union representative, told the Globe last month that he wanted Hunter removed.
And the consensus amongst many player representatives around the league was that Hunter’s dealings as executive director called for his removal
Flanked by Denver’s Andre Iguodala, New Orleans’ Roger Mason, Miami’s James Jones and New Jersey’s Jerry Stackhouse, Fisher spoke briefly with the media and said the NBPA fully expects legal action from Hunter.
“Today for the National Basketball Players Association was a day of change,” Fisher said. “We held a meeting of the board of player representatives with many different groups of players represented. We want to make it clear that we are here to serve only the best interests of the player. No threats. No lies. No distractions will stop us from serving our membership. We do not doubt that this process will possibly continue in an ugly way but we want to remind everyone that there are three ongoing government investigations pending and so we’d like to continue to respect that process and continue to handle ourselves accordingly in that regard.
“But going forward, we’ll no longer be divided, misled, misinformed. This is our union and we’re taking it back.”
Hunter sent out a response to his removal and would not rule out legal action to retain his job.
"I have yet to receive any notification, other than published news reports, that the NBPA has terminated my employment," he said. "If accurate, it is indicative of the extremely troubling process followed by the NBPA during the past few weeks. During the days and weeks ahead, my legal team and I will begin carefully reviewing the actions taken and statements made against me in the meeting room in my absence. I look forward to gathering the evidence showing how certain individuals made sure the outcome was pre-ordained."
Hunter claims he was not allowed to attend Saturday's meeting and offer his case to remain executive director.
"After 17 years of representing NBA players during CBA negotiations and defending their rights in other proceedings, not once was there an occasion where one side was denied an opportunity to be heard," he said. "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 addition, 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. 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."