Union Chief Hunter Faces More Scrutiny, Acts On Nepotism Claim In Report

All-Star Weekend is the NBA’s de facto annual convention, a mostly happy mix of basketball, brand-building, show biz, sponsorships and celebration, with a little bit of league business thrown in. Things figure to be a little more heavy this year, however, from the players’ side.

The National Basketball Players Association will be faced with serious questions about executive director Billy Hunter’s fitness to continue in his current position, based on reports Tuesday by the New York Times and Bloomberg News. They represent the latest challenges to Hunter’s performance, coming in the wake of the Jan. 17 release of an independent law firm’s findings. That report, commissioned by the players, was strongly critical of the executive director’s business practices.

In the Times’ piece, Arn Tellem, one of the NBA’s most powerful player agents, called for Hunter’s removal and urged that they take action at All-Star Weekend in Houston. The paper obtained a copy of Tellem’s letter to his players.

“N.B.A. players deserve better representation from the union they fund,” Tellem writes in the letter. “I implore you and your fellow players to take control of your union and your future. It’s time for Mr. Hunter to go.”

Tellem suggests that players should make that decision when the players association holds its annual All-Star meeting on the weekend of Feb. 15 to 17. That is also when the players will discuss the recent audit, by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Representatives of the firm are expected to present the findings and answer questions.

In his letter, Tellem suggests that Hunter should not be allowed to attend that meeting to prevent him from any attempt “to intimidate and manipulate.” Tellem writes: “Hunter is betting that the players — historically passive — will let him slide. I hope you don’t. Clearly, Hunter has violated your trust.”

The Bloomberg story reported that Hunter dismissed family members from union roles after the Paul, Weiss report cited its findings of nepotism and conflict of interest  The moves were disclosed in a Jan. 23 letter Hunter wrote to a special committee of players.

The New York-based union paid almost $4.8 million to Hunter’s family members and their professional firms since 2001, according to public records. Hunter makes $3 million a year as union chief.

“Hopefully this decision will alleviate any concerns raised by their employment,” Hunter wrote in the letter. “These measures are being taken although the report noted that both of them were highly qualified, not overpaid, and were contributing members of the NBPA staff.”

Robyn Hunter, the director’s daughter, ceased working at the union on Jan. 25, according to the letter. Megan Inaba, his daughter-in-law and director of special events and sponsorships, will leave on Feb. 17 after the National Basketball Association’s All-Star weekend.

Hunter, 70, also secured a letter of resignation from Prim Capital, which employs his son, Todd.

Hunter, through union spokesman Dan Wasserman, declined to comment on the letter or his family’s employment changes.

The independent report of two weeks ago focused on Hunter’s ethics and raised questions about the approval process for his current five-year contract as director, worth approximately $15 million. Tellem’s letter was highly critical of Hunter’s performance in leading NBA players through the 2011-12 lockout.

Tellem was one of six agents who, at the height of tensions during the dispute, called for the union to decertify, which would have removed him as a principal in the process. He resisted, only later accepting the players’ strategy to file a “disclaimer of interest” as a less strident – and perhaps less effective – alternative.

More from the Times story:

Tellem devotes a major portion of his letter to criticizing Hunter’s handling of the lockout, saying that the union chief was “tactically, strategically and logistically unprepared” and that Commissioner David Stern “outmaneuvered Mr. Hunter from the get-go.” The decision to reject decertification, Tellem writes, showed that Hunter was “more concerned with saving his job and salary than in making the best deal for the players.”

The procedure for firing Hunter is not entirely clear, although it would presumably begin with the 60 or so player representatives (two from each team). The union also has a nine-player executive board, but that board has seven vacancies because of the union’s failure to hold an election within the last year. An election is scheduled for All-Star weekend.

Last year at this time, parties on both sides – owners and players – were happy just to have salvaged a season that could include a 2012 All-Star Weekend. The 2013 edition figures to be a lot more work and a little more heated.

20 Comments

  1. @ Kenny-yeah big-ups to Derek Fisher, he had the courage to say something & have him pulled up on his slimmey ethics!

  2. Kevin says:

    Since when did Agents like Arn Tellem become saints – this like the pot calling the kettle black. Nowehere in the report does it say that he (BH) never acted in the best intrests of the players or that he stole money, or that any of his relatives were stealing money or were not highly qualified. Not a Billy Hunter fan, but this is an obvious coup by players agents, who if they had their way would have wiped out all of last year’s season to get more money in their pockets. Wake up people…….

  3. sokdo says:

    Derek Fisher for new UNION CHIEF !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Regina says:

    When Derrick Fisher stated there were problems, I trusted that and now I see why he fought back against the Union. Derrick is a good man with integrity. I’m glad he defended himself against the accusations of Hunter and this Union Executive Board.

  5. David D says:

    Suppose the union had decertified. Then, there would’ve been months of court hearings to settle the dispute between the league and the players union that would’ve destroyed the 2012 NBA season all together. Players would’ve had to find homes on teams overseas that simply don’t have the funds to pay them as much as they make here. With the exception of a few select stars, NBA players would’ve made far less money in Europe or Asia than what they make in our league, even under the new collective bargaining agreement.

  6. Davie says:

    Is nobody going to ask the obvious question?

    What does this agent have to benefit from all this?

    The Players Union was designed to protect players and ensure they were not taken for granted. It wasn’t designed to do things at the expense of and hold the league hostage!

  7. Kenny says:

    It was obvious that Hunter was crooked when Derek Fisher ordered the investigation into him and then Hunter tried to oust DFish. Hunter was clearly worried that they would find something

  8. He has beedy looking eyes (like suspicious looking), means one thing, fire him! The players have to make sure they have someone representing them that is upstanding in their ethics!

  9. TS says:

    Let’s keep it basketball gentleman. I have no idea what nepotism means. Don’t make me Google it, don’t have time for that. I have a lot of BASKETBALL things to read tonight.

  10. Dr. M says:

    The Hunter has become the hunted.

  11. Matters says:

    How much does his family make?

  12. Alessio Laker says:

    They should’ve had fired the whole family long ago.

  13. Jesse says:

    I imagine he told them he will rehire them once the heat dies down.

    The players need to fire Hunter.

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  15. Andrea says:

    First law of any business: DO NOT HIRED FAMILY MEMBERS, esp when they are your kids! That alone was a conflict of interest. You don’t make a contract with a company that employs your family, either. 70 years old? Time for retirement!

  16. skrutz says:

    Please fire him. They say he didn’t do anything illegal… but definitely crooked.

    He’s probably not a bad guy, but he definitely doesn’t have the best interests in mind. Plus, firing his family members instead of stepping down himself makes him look really bad.

  17. Chester says:

    Reminds me of a greedy politician doing whatever he can to stay in power

  18. TrueNBAFan says:

    I hope they fire him. Him firing his relatives looks like he’s trying to save his own job and money no matter who is in the way. Dont need a shady selfish guy like that in any position of power.