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Billy Hunter speaks regarding nepotism issue, tumult in union

Apr 25, 2012, 4:25 PM EDT

Billy Hunter AP

It’s been a mess.

NBA players union president Derek Fisher wanted not just an audit but a full business review of the union’s practices, something he said he got approved by a quorum of the executive committee — the New York Times got the minutes of that call which said there was 5-0 vote in favor, although some on the call dispute that. A few days later the full executive committee looked at it again after executive director Billy Hunter asked them to and the committee both killed the deal and asked for Fisher’s resignation. Something he has refused to do.

Hunter sat down with Howard Beck of the New York Times about the incident for the first time. He is not sure his relationship with Fisher can be repaired.

“I think the relationship has suffered seriously, suffered a severe injury,” Hunter, referring to himself and Fisher, said in an interview. “And the question is whether or not we’ve suffered irreparable damage. And it may very well be that that’s the case.

“I’m sure he doesn’t trust me,” Hunter continued, adding, “I don’t want to be in a situation where I got to look over my back every five minutes.”

Hunter was eager to shoot down the nepotism charges that flow out of a story on how the union has paid $4.8 million to his children or firms they are associated with. In addition to those is a Yahoo report that the union wanted to invest $7 million in a bank with ties to one of Hunter’s sons, a story that also details a spider web of family ties to union business.

He said each of these were good business decisions — his relatives are lawyers or have MBAs — and that both Fisher and the executive committee knew about them and approved them.

“Let me say this to you: My children are highly credentialed,” Hunter said. “In many instances, they’re being paid at or below the market….

“There’s nothing illegal,” Hunter said, “and you’re not going to find anything illegal, you or anybody else, if that’s what you’re looking for. I’m not afraid of that.”

While there likely is nothing illegal, a number of attorneys and others have stepped forward to say the hiring of family should raise ethical red flags.

NBA Commissioner Stern said during his annual pre-playoffs press conference Wednesday that he wants no part of this union mess. Smart man — he has to work with whoever has power and whatever shape the union is in when this is done.

“It’s interesting, but it doesn’t concern me because they will work it out,” Stern said.

They will. Eventually. But it could get a lot messier before we all get there.

  1. somekat - Apr 25, 2012 at 4:34 PM

    “in many instances, they are being paid at or below market value”

    In “many instances”? Notice he didn’t say “most instances”

    If “in many instances they are being paid at or below market value”, what is happening in the rest of the instances?

    Even his denials are a joke

    • mytthor - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:33 AM

      Good point — so by inference, he admits outright that some of the time he is hiring his family and paying them ABOVE market value. Pretty cut and dry.

  2. reastnt - Apr 25, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    His family members and their businesses shouldn’t be on the payroll at all – period. Hunter must have skipped Business Ethics 101.

    • somekat - Apr 25, 2012 at 4:55 PM

      That is absurd, he went to Business Ethics 101 “in many instances”

  3. dedalus13 - Apr 25, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    Well well I guess that evil or not, educated corporate people just don’t do that kind of business, period. Just amazing.

  4. eddiecrash1976 - Apr 25, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    What a piece of f#!%ing crap!!
    Oh and of course he wants Fisher to resign for putting his shady business practices on the radar, it’s laughable!
    He’s probably more outraged that another fellow African-American put his sorry ass on the spot!! Kudos to Fisher.
    As basketball fan I didn’t like Fisher very much, not because of his personality but because he was underrated and a clutch during the Laker Championships. But after reading this article he’s probably one my favorite players now even though he’s at the end of his carreer! Go Fish!

  5. stayhigh_247 - Apr 25, 2012 at 5:28 PM

    when theres money involved, people show you who they really are every time.

  6. stayhigh_247 - Apr 25, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    dont let that Temptations mini- fro and those Mr Peabody frames fool you, he knew what he was doing….

  7. mogogo1 - Apr 25, 2012 at 6:04 PM

    Hunter has everything backwards. He works for Fisher, not the other way around. If Fisher and the other players want an audit, then an audit will take place because it’s their union.

    And he talks like he believes a new union president would change things back to the good old days. That’s not going to happen. Does he think the players are going to just forget that he fleeced them by putting his whole family on the payroll? Or that he tried to stonewall the audit and force out the guy who challenged him on his serial nepotism?

  8. iowahbr - Apr 25, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    Whatever the player union is paying Hunter, it’s way too much. Now it leaks out that they’re doing union biz with his relatives. To borrow a theme from the movie the Titanic, this is the tip of the iceberg but it’s the stuff under the water that will sink the boat. All of a sudden Fisher is a bum when the real story is that most of the players must have no idea what’s really going on with their union money.

  9. boilerup1869 - Apr 25, 2012 at 7:17 PM

    Well, there in fact is a legal question here relating to the misappropriation of funds (the legal system terms that “embezzlement”, billy boy).

    Then, like everyone else has correctly stated before me, there’s an ethical question about giving preferential treatment to family and/or close associates.

    And then there’s the attempt to force Fisher to resign after he sought an audit.

    Three strikes and you’re out Hunter!

  10. cured76 - Apr 25, 2012 at 10:43 PM

    The timing of this BS non-denial couldn’t have arrived at a more humorous moment. I bet the executive committee feels stupid for turning on Fisher, who now has a .4 moment as a player rep!

  11. deadwoodcity - Apr 26, 2012 at 12:08 AM

    It seems to me that Hunter, the unions lawyers, and all of those others on the payroll gravy train should be investigated and kicked out on their butts. Is that going to happen, who knows. Except for Fisher it doesn’t appear to me that any of the Exective Board members has any balls, which is surprising.

  12. skids003 - Apr 26, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    Maybe not illegal, but highly unethical.

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