In-fighting between executive committee members of the NBA players’ union and President Derek Fisher escalated Friday night, with Fisher refusing to resign while urging the league’s 30 players reps to demand review of his performance and the union’s business practices and finances.
All of this would have grabbed far bigger headlines had it occurred six, eight or 12 months ago – before the NBA and the union agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement that will run at least through the 2016-17 season. Fisher, executive director Billy Hunter and the eight National Basketball Players Association vice presidents who have lined up behind Hunter in this skirmish were front and center then, with the league in a lockout that lasted five months.
Now it is more of an inside-basketball story that might not grab most fans’ attention. The players involved are mostly back at work on the courts, with the playoffs looming. But the political maneuvering by Hunter – who fended off a call by Fisher for an audit of Hunter’s performance, turning that into an 8-0 vote of non-support for the union president – and Fisher might explain some of the union’s inconsistencies and reversals during the CBA negotiations.
Fisher was accused by Hunter sympathizers during the talks last fall as undercutting the players’ position in side dealings with management, allegedly to assure himself of a future position with the league. Hunter was criticized by others for trying to protect his power base. Both took heat for concessions ultimately made in the final contract.
Some player reps reportedly view this attack on Fisher’s integrity as a move by Hunter to secure his job (and approximately $2.4 million salary). Many were caught unaware by the bold accusations and politicking.
The eight-man executive committee –which includes active players Maurice Evans, Keyon Dooling, James Jones, Matt Bonner and Chris Paul, along with Roger Mason, Theo Ratliff and Etan Thomas (not currently employed by teams) – requested Fisher’s resignation Friday. In a statement, it said it “based its decision on numerous instances over the past six months, where Fisher engaged in conduct detrimental to the union, including acting in contravention of the players’ best interests, during collective bargaining, declining to follow the NBPA Constitution, and failing to uphold the duties of the Union President.”
Fisher, currently a reserve guard with the Oklahoma City Thunder, fired back with a statement after his team’s shootaround practice in Sacramento Friday morning. Later in the day, he came back with something more official, calling the committee’s allegations “defamatory” and urging a vote of all 30 player reps in pursuing an independent audit of the NBPA.
Here is the full text of Fisher’s response:
“As I stated in my letter to the Executive Committee, I will not resign.
I along with many others are extremely disappointed with the Executive Committee. Their demand for my resignation and their need to protect the NBPA Management and their own best interests instead of protecting the players we were elected to serve is unfortunate.
I have tried to convey the legal and moral obligations we have as union officers. Sadly, the Executive Committee has now waged a personal character attack on me to divert attention from the real issue. The truth.
So the next step is simple. All players have a voice. Any and all players may request an independent review of the business practices and finances and a Player Representative vote can be taken at a time when all 30 player representatives can be present. A firm of the players choosing may conduct the review.
The allegations that are now being directed at me are defamatory. But I urge our members to order an independent review beginning immediately and that will be proven along with finding out definitively if there are any issues with the NBPA’s business practices and finances.”