Billy Hunter proposes reforms after investigation criticized NBPA practices
By Ben Golliver
As some influential voices call for his job, National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter announced a proposed series of reforms on Wednesday aimed at addressing concerns raised in a recent internal investigation of the players union’s practices. The reforms will be presented for adoption at the NBPA’s annual meeting during February’s All-Star Weekend in Houston. Presumably, the topic of Hunter’s future with the organization will also come up.
The announced reforms come one day after Hunter cut ties between the NBPA and his daughter, daughter-in-law and son, who were all receiving money directly or indirectly for services provided to the players union.
Hunter’s reforms include the suggested adoption of an “anti-nepotism policy” and policies concerning conflicts of interest and other employment issues.
An internal investigation by the Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison law firm produced a lengthy report that called into question the presence of Hunter’s family members on the NBPA’s payroll, the legality of Hunter’s contract, potential conflicts of interest and the possible misuse of NBPA funds.
“The facts do not show that … Hunter engaged in criminal acts involving embezzlement or theft of Union funds,” the report’s summary stated. “Nevertheless, in our judgment, the facts do show that, at times, Mr. Hunter’s actions were inconsistent with his fiduciary obligations to put the interests of the Union above his personal interests.”
Bloomberg.com reported Tuesday that Hunter cut ties between the players’ union and his family members after they received millions of dollars in compensation.
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 has drawn criticism from players and agents alike since the investigation’s report was released publicly, setting the stage for a possible showdown in Houston.
On Tuesday, The New York Times published a letter from super-agent Arn Tellem to one of his clients, advising that Hunter be terminated as executive director and that he be barred from All-Star Weekend meetings. Among Tellem’s complaints: that Hunter “abused his position by hiring family members and by conducting business with friends and family that enriched his cronies.”
You need a strong union to represent you, to protect your rights and to prepare for the next round of labor negotiations in five years. I urge you to ask your player representatives to instruct Mr. Hunter not to attend the players meeting during the All-Star Game so that he cannot continue to intimidate and manipulate. In fact, no union employee should be allowed to attend the event. This would ensure that the independent law firm can present its findings directly to the players and answer their questions. Players should meet the investigators with no outsiders present. Otherwise, players could be pressured while discussing and making recommendations about Mr. Hunter’s future.
I implore you to hold Mr. Hunter accountable for his egregious behavior. The union belongs to the players. Mr. Hunter works for you, though he clearly doesn’t realize it. If you don’t act now, Mr. Hunter’s treachery will stand and the players’ ability to point their union in the right direction will be delayed and compromised to your continued detriment.
Earlier this month, Nets guard Deron Williams told CBSSports.com that he believes it’s time for Hunter to go.
“I think change is needed, top to bottom,” Nets star Deron Williams told CBSSports.com on Friday night, becoming the league’s first high-profile player to call for Hunter’s ouster as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association.
“I don’t think things were getting voted on like they should have been,” Williams said. “… I’m sure there’s guys that are still with Billy, and some guys that aren’t. We’ve just got to figure out what the next step is.”
Despite those critiques, Hunter released a statement two weeks ago saying that he would continue in his role.