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Report: Some agents pushing Donald Fehr to take over NBA players union

Feb 5, 2013, 10:11 AM EST

Executive Director of the National Hockey League Players Association Donald Fehr speaks to the media in Toronto. Reuters

Remember the 1994 World Series?

Of course you don’t — there wasn’t one. MLB Players had gone on strike that August as owners and players battled over whether there would be a salary cap in baseball. Eventually new commissioner Bud Selig cancelled the playoffs and World Series. A deal wasn’t reached until training camps had opened the next season with replacement players.

But there still is no salary cap in baseball. That lockout and a number of other hard negotiations — including the most recent NHL lockout — were brought to you with Donald Fehr as head of the players union.

Guess who some agents are pushing to replace Billy Hunter as head of the National Basketball Players Association? You guessed it. From Ken Berger at CBSSports.com.

Fehr, currently the executive director of the NHL Players Association, is the early preferred pick among multiple agents with enough clout to sway a significant portion of union membership, CBSSports.com has learned.

Fehr, who also has served as executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, declined to comment when reached through the NHLPA Monday because Hunter remains in place as executive director. A person familiar with Fehr’s thinking told CBSSports.com that the hockey union chief is happy in his job and “has no plans to leave his position.

Billy Hunter, who has been head of the NBA players union since 1996, is currently on paid leave, placed their by the executive committee in the wake of an independent report that raised a number of ethical issues around Hunter and his running of the union.

A number of agents want Hunter out and that is driven by the last lockout — they thought Hunter went in without a good plan, was too passive and gave up way, way too much in the negotiations (the players used to get 57 percent of league revenue, that is down to just more than 50 percent now). These are agents, people who make their livings as aggressive negotiators, and they want someone who negotiates like them in there. They don’t like Hunter.

The players will vote on that All-Star weekend in a union meeting. There are also seven spots on the union executive committee to be filled and a lot of other questions about a future direction for the union to be answered.

What even bringing up Fehr’s name shows is where the agents are coming from heading into the eventual 2018 NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. (That summer either side can opt out of the current deal and you can bet one if not both sides will.) Fehr is a hard negotiator — he treats a sports labor dispute like any labor dispute, like a Longshoreman’s strike or truckers or whatever union you want to name. He is the guy who led collusion charges among baseball owners nearly three decades ago.

He’s not afraid to miss games to achieve his goals. A lot of games. NBA owners and Adam Silver (who will have replaced David Stern as Commissioner by then) will know going in what kind of negotiator they are dealing with.

Fehr may or may not ever become head of the NBA players union. But that his name is being put out there shows where some agents want to take this fight.

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