Apr 24, 2012, 3:25 PM EST
And now we see what is at the heart of the current NBA players union fight — nepotism concerns.
This is already a fight where union president Derek Fisher pushed for an audit and Executive Director Billy Hunter got the union executive committee to call off the audit and call for Fisher to resign. And now you get the feeling this is going to get worse.
The union has been spending millions of dollars to do business with companies and lawfirms tied to Hunter, reports Bloomberg in a well researched story.
The National Basketball Players Association, whose business practices are being questioned by President Derek Fisher, paid almost $4.8 million to Executive Director Billy Hunter’s family members and their professional firms since 2001, according to public records…
Hunter, a former U.S. attorney who led the players through two work stoppages, has a daughter and daughter-in-law on staff at the union. Another daughter is special counsel at a law firm used by the association, and Hunter’s son is a principal at a financial planning and investment firm that last fiscal year was paid $45,526 a month to run the union’s financial awareness program and advise on investments, according to filings with the U.S. Labor Department.
“It’s not a criminal act, but it’s not something I would do,” said Marvin Miller, who led baseball players through three strikes and two lockouts as their salaries rose 12-fold between 1966 and 1982.
Therein lies the issue — this is not illegal. But it raises a whole lot of ethical red flags. You can make the argument that so long as the union is getting the services it pays for — quality legal representation, quality work on investments — that this is legitimate.
But you can bet that this would not be allowed — or would at least be heavily scrutinized — at a public company or government agency. It reeks of nepotism.
For example, Hunter’s daughter Alexis works for Steptoe & Johnson LLP, the firm the union hired during the lockout to file unfair labor practice charge against the NBA with the National Labor Relations Board during the lockout. Before that the league did business with her pervious lawfirm.
The Bloombert report details the union’s connections to a number of Hunter’s relatives. It also notes he made a $2.39 million salary in 2011.
NBPA executive committee member Mo Evans told Bloomberg that nepotism has been discussed by the committee.
Evans told reporters on April 20 that Fisher declined an invitation from the executive committee to defend himself on a conference call with Hunter. Nepotism at the union was among the topics discussed on the call, Evans said.
“Billy answered those questions to our satisfaction, was very open and candid with us, and we were satisfied, and again, the players were disappointed because Derek has yet to address us,” he said.
The executive committee released a statement asking for Fisher to step down and that he is not acting in the best interest of the players. This is getting ugly, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. And the thing is — and the reason it goes on — is that most of the players could not care less.
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