Posts Tagged ‘National Basketball Retired Players Association’

Report May Jeopardize Billy Hunter’s Fate As NBPA Executive Director

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A report strongly critical of NBA union executive director Billy Hunter, released Thursday by an independent law firm hired by the players, could lead to Hunter’s ouster.

The investigation, authorized in April 2012 by the National Basketball Players Association, focused on Hunter’s business practices, possible misuse of union funds and allegations of nepotism and conflicts of interest. It was conducted by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

The findings? Hunter did nothing that would rise to the level of “criminal acts.” But he did violate “fiduciary obligations” to put the union’s interests ahead of his own and “did not properly manage conflicts of interest.”

The 469-page document, along with a 39-page executive summary, concluded: “Based on the findings of this report, the BPA should consider whether Mr. Hunter should remain as the Union’s Executive Director and whether new and more effective controls should be enacted to govern the NBPA, its Foundation and its Executive Director, whoever that may be.”

The independent review and financial audit sprang from union in-fighting that came in the wake of last season’s lockout and eventual settlement. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan also has been investigating NBPA business practices.

In a statement released late Thursday afternoon, Hunter said: “While I strongly disagree with some of the findings contained in the report, I am pleased it recognized that I have not engaged in criminal acts nor was I involved in misappropriation of union funds. … In my work for the NBPA, my priority has always been to promote the interests of the players.”

Union president Derek Fisher – whose attempted ouster by the Executive Committee led to the Paul, Weiss investigation – issued a statement saying he looked forward to reviewing the report’s findings and recommendations. “As there is an ongoing investigation by the Government as well,” Fisher’s statement read, “I hope that this is a chance for us to become an upstanding, strong organization with the sole purpose of serving the best interests of current and future players.”

Amid tension stemming from the lockout – driven by accusations that the union conceded too much and splintering among the NBPA execs, rank-and-file players, some high-profile NBA stars and a group of elite agents – the Executive Committee voted 8-0 seeking Fisher’s resignation. Fisher refused and instead asked for an audit of the NBPA’s business practices. (Hunter’s stance was that an audit had recently been done, was not necessary and would have cost the union as much as $400,000.)

The NBA declined to comment on the union matter.

Among the findings that could threaten Hunter’s term with the NBPA:

  • The union “never properly approved Mr. Hunter’s current employment contract with the union” as required by its constitution and by-laws. Also, Hunter knew that his contract had not been approved, yet failed to disclose that to the Executive Committee and the player reps. [Hunter, in his statement Thursday, noted: "Regarding my contract … it was ratified by the NBPA Executive Committee and signed by President Derek Fisher. I believe the contract and extensions are valid."]
  • Hunter received $1.3 million for “accrued but allegedly unused vacation time (146 days)” without providing an independent review of records or advice to the union on its obligation to make the payment.
  • He involved family and friends in union business as vendors or employees, including daughter Robyn Hunter; daugher-in-law Megan Inaba; Prim Capital, a financial services company where Hunter’s son is a partner, and the law firm Steptoe & Johnson, where daughter Alexis works.
  • Hunter “created an atmosphere at the NBPA that discouraged challenges to his authority.” It cited an instance in which former player and NBPA secretary-treasurer Pat Garrity was stopped by former general counself Gary Hall from talking about potential conflicts of interest.

Hall, who died in May 2011, curiously was the only union attorney involved in negotiating Hunter’s contract. That contract paid him $3 million for the year that began July 1, 2011 and reportedly has three years remaining.

The report also was critical of some business decisions by Hunter and others within the NBPA that showed “poor judgment” or “display insensitivity to conflicts of interest.” Among them:

  • Hunter approved a pay of approximately $28,000 to cover personal legal fees incurred by Charles Smith, a former Executive Director fo the National Basketball Retired Players Association.
  • He “spent union funds on luxury gifts for Executive Committee members, including nearly $22,000 for a watch he gave to Derek Fisher in June 2010.”
  • He made “questionable choices” when charging travel expenses to the union, pursued “atypical” business ventures as potential NBPA investments and ran the NBPA Foundation “without regard for its by-laws or governance standards applicable to non-profit entities.”

Fisher, members of the Executive Committee and even player reps are cited in the report for not properly monitoring Hunter’s activities or following union procedures. For example, Fisher did not put Hunter’s contract to a vote, as required by the by-laws.

That contract pays Hunter approximately $500,000 more than NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith receives and double or triple what their MLB and NHL counterparts are paid. Hunter’s salary jumped by $600,000 on the day the 2011-12 lockout began.

Now 70, Hunter assumed the role of Executive Director in 1996 and steered the NBPA through two lockouts that resulted in shortened regular seasons. He negotiated every NBA collective bargaining agreement in that time with the league’s owners and familiar adversary, commissioner David Stern.

Prior to this involvement with the NBPA, Hunter played professional football for the NFL’s Washington and Miami franchises and worked as a U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California at San Francisco.

The question now, as labor unrest in the NBA takes on a post-lockout meaning and tilts one way, is: Does he stay or does he go?

Or as the report itself asked, Should Mr. Hunter remain as Executive Director? Here is how it summarized, leaving the hard choices up to the NBPA’s and Hunter’s willingness to fight:

“The Player Representatives and the Executive Committee could decide that it is possible for Mr. Hunter to rectify the problems he has created and serve as an effective Executive Director in the future despite the issues of the past. Should they decide to permit Mr. Hunter to continue leading the Union, they may wish to retain independent counsel to negotiate a new employment contract…”

It continues:

“But the Union need not keep Mr. Hunter. If the NBPA’s Player Representatives and Executive Committee members decide for any reason that the Union deserves a fresh start, they are free to do so. They may choose not to ratify or renegotiate Mr. Hunter’s employment agreement, appoint an acting Executive Director and authorize a search for a new Executive Director.”

TNT analyst David Aldridge contributed to this report.

LaRue Martin, Antoine Walker Show Value Of, Need For NBRPA

CHICAGO – The tall man in a business suit peered intently through his reading glasses as he read aloud the proclamation from the Illinois governor, celebrating the National Basketball Retired Players Association for its relocation from New York to the Windy City.

In a swank restaurant at Navy Pier, in front of many former NBA and ABA players and well-connected members of the Chicago business community, LaRue Martin got to the part in the formal document about the NBRPA’s mission to help players “transitioning to life after basketball.” Very briefly, he looked up and broke that fourth wall.

“I’m a good example,” the 62-year-old Martin smiled, before quickly resuming his task on Gov. Pat Quinn’s behalf.

Fact is, LaRue Martin is a great example. Most basketball fans who know of him at all think of Martin as some sort of failure, based on his status as one of the NBA’s most notorious draft “busts.”

Back in 1972, fearful that they wouldn’t be able to cut a deal that would keep Bob McAdoo out of the ABA, the Portland Trail Blazers used the No. 1 pick on Martin. He was a skinny 6-foot-11 center out of Loyola in Chicago, underdeveloped both physically and in his skills, in what was a spotty draft class.

Martin lasted just four seasons, averaging 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in a sketchy 14.0 minutes over 271 games. He became the punchline to some unfunny draft jokes and was the precursor in Portland to other big-man disappointments (Bill Walton ultimately, Sam Bowie, Greg Oden).

Now, though, Martin is a successful, prosperous businessman, a community services manager for United Parcel Service and, as a UPS public-affairs executive, a man who has rubbed elbows with governors, senators and even the President.

“Being a No. 1 draft choice, getting that big zero on your back, you are a marked man,” Martin said cheerfully Thursday after the luncheon. “My career was up and down. They called me the worst draft choice in the nation, and that bothered me. But I had the opportunity to move on and get into the corporate world, and I’ve moved on ever since.”

A few minutes earlier in the program, before Martin spoke, another tall man in jeans and a sport coat moved through the room. At 6-foot-9 and probably 50 pounds beyond his playing weight of 225 pounds, there was no sneaking to his spot near the front for Antoine Walker. He scooted along, shook a few hands on the way, then took his seat, a new face open finally to what the retired players association is all about.

Walker, 36, is best known as another sort of bust: he blew through more than $110 million in NBA career earnings through bad decisions and investments, abused generosity, lavish spending and gambling. He was only 31 when he played in the NBA for the last time, coming off the bench for Minnesota in 2007-08. By May 2010, amid flirtations with a comeback that led to a humbling stay with the D League Idaho Stampede, Walker filed for bankruptcy, citing $12.7 million in debts and just $4.3 million in assets.

He was a man-child out of Kentucky, another Chicago native drafted high, No. 6 overall in 1996. Walker averaged 17.5 points and 7.7 rebounds across 12 seasons. He won a championship ring with Miami in 2006, played in three NBA All-Star games and still ranks among the top 25 in NBA history in 3-pointers made and top 100 in minutes, field-goal attempts and offensive and defensive rebounds.

Fact is, Antoine Walker is a great example of why the NBRPA has value for both current and soon-to-be retired players. He was, by most standards, a terrific success in the NBA. He is very much a work in progress now, though.

“That probably hit me six, seven months ago, when I was trying to figure things out,” Walker said after the dining room cleared. “Because even if I do go back and play basketball, my window is going to be very short. It’s not going to be playing four, five, 10 more years. So it’s very important I get started with the next phase of my life. I’m just starting now.”

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Barry, Haywood, Bailey To Speak At NBRPA Event in Chicago

CHICAGO – At 68, 63 and 51 years old, respectively, Rick Barry, Spencer Haywood and Thurl Bailey would seem to be a little old for a “coming-out” party. But that’s what it will be Thursday at Navy Pier, when the National Basketball Retired Players Association holds its first public event since relocating to the Windy City in February.

Barry, Haywood and Bailey will be featured speakers at a “Lunch with Champions” event designed to introduce the NBRPA to Chicago’s media and business community. After 20 years in New York, the NBRPA — which bills itself as the only pro basketball association supported by both the NBA and NBPA and includes alumni from the NBA, ABA and the Harlem Globetrotters — shifted operations to Chicago. The lure? Its central location, in terms of US travel, and its proximity to CEO Arnie Fielkow’s home base. The city’s business community also is consistent with the NBRPA’s mission to help former players in their transitions to post-playing lives.

More than a dozen former NBA and ABA players are expected to be available for autographs. Barry, Haywood and Bailey — all members of the association’s Board of Directors — will speak about the merits of champions. Individual tickets for the event at Riva Crabhouse are $50 for the general public and $40 for Chicago Sports Commission members, with tables of eight priced at $300 and $250.