The NBA Players Association announced Friday that embattled NBPA director chief Billy Hunter has been placed on indefinite leave of absence.
Longtime union lawyer Ron Klempner was appointed acting executive director of the union until every member of the union “can have a vote in the matter,” the NBPA said.
Union president Derek Fisher said:
“This organization has been disrupted and we will no longer tolerate it. Immediate action was necessary and taken to protect you.”
The NBPA also announced that it has formed an interim executive committee and advisory committee “to move the organization forward” in the wake of a damaging report by the independent firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP hired to look into the union’s business practices under Hunter’s leadership.
Hunter has headed the union since 1996.
Because his $3 million per year contract, signed in 2010 and to run through either 2015 or 2017, was never properly approved, the report found that players were under no obligation to keep him. According to the report, Hunter was aware by at least November 2011 that the executive committee and player representatives had not approved the deal according to union bylaws. The report cited areas where Hunter should have known better, particularly when it came to hiring family members.
The union either employed or worked with many people who had ties to Hunter, who hired his daughter and nephew, permitted a daughter-in-law to remain on staff, and spent more than $80,000 of union funds to evaluate an investment in a banking firm that employed his son.
“No matter the explanation, when viewed collectively, his choices created the appearance that he operated the union in part for the benefit of his family and friends,”
the report said.
Hunter fired his daughter and daughter-in-law less than two weeks after the report came out.
The report found that Hunter also spent more than $100,000 of union funds to purchase gifts for executive committee members, including a $22,000 watch, and that he made “questionable choices” when charging travel expenses to the NBPA.
The investigation began in April 2012 and included reviews of documents, financial records and NBPA emails, along with interviews of more than three dozen witnesses. It questioned a payment he received for unused vacation time and the way he filed travel expenses, but couldn’t prove they were illegal.
NBPA director Billy Hunter had many enemies. Especially among agents. He was extremely hostile towards agents and made no secret of his intentions; to eliminate them from the business.
He did so by implementing all kinds of rules and regulations which would make the potential earnings of agents much less than before. Because of the rookie salary scale, the earnings that an agent can make on a drafted rookie are relatively so small that many of the top-agents don’t charge their rookies anything for their services.
Agents are not entitled to their regular fee when a player signs a maximum, or minimum contract, or as a drafted rookie. Then, there are also all kinds of automatic salary scales for veteran players, which make the need for an agent less (regular agent fees are not allowed here either).
Representation agreements between NBA players and their agents are only symbolic since they can be terminated for any reason upon a 14 days written notice.
Since Hunter took over the NBPA, the number of NBA agents has been reduced dramatically.
Hunter mobilized the NBPA to actively convince the players to fire their agents and let the NBPA represent them. Hunter was also on collision course with the agents in regards to the NBA lock-outs.
Although agents must be members of the same union as the players, and pay a heavy annual fee, they have nothing to say within the organization and no voting power (contrary to the players).
In the end, one of the most powerful agents (Arn Tellem) had enough and saw an opportunity to hit back.
With the whole Hunter scandal unfolding, Tellem sent a letter to his numerous NBA clients and openly asked them to sack Hunter. Other agents followed his example. Now, everything indicates that Hunter is taking a free-fall and is on his way out.