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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.

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