Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg News Sports tweeted that former player's union executive director Billy Hunter has filed a lawsuit against the NBPA, union president Derek Fisher, and Jamie Wior (Fisher's publicist), claiming defamation and a breach of contract. Ken Berger of CBS Sports elaborated further on the matter, reporting that the suit includes allegations accusing Fisher and Wior of secretly conspiring with "certain owners" (not identified in the suit) to negotiate the conclusion of the 2011 lockout and that their actions ultimately led to the termination of Hunter's contract with the NBPA.
Hunter's lawsuit contends that Fisher "actively manipulated the investigation" conducted by the Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, & Garrison law firm "by making false statements impugning Hunter's character." The document also questions why Hunter's employment contract from 2010 was deemed invalid by the Paul-Weiss firm considering that Fisher - whose signature on Hunter's termination letter indicates that he had authorization to hire Hunter - had signed it.
Expanding on the accusation that Fisher had secretly worked with several NBA owners in order to end the lockout, the lawsuit includes that Hunter received a telephone call from "one of the highest paid players and his agent" nearly a month before the actual agreement was reached and was notified that a deal had already been agreed upon with the owners. At that point, it is alleged that Hunter was then told by the player and agent to accept the terms and end the lockout. Hunter's party also contends that Fisher had negotiated the 50-50 split of league revenue "without consulting with Hunter or the Executive Committee."
Among some of the rest of the charges listed in the lawsuit, Fisher is accused of "(inserting) himself into the collective bargaining process to the detriment of the union" and that he "was incentivized to complete a deal as quickly as possible given his limited playing career and need to secure his future job prospects by staying on good terms with the NBA and team owners." It also brings into question the active role of Jamie Wior, who Hunter asserts had no authority to become involved with or assist Fisher with the negotiations of the CBA. At the very minimum, Hunter is seeking the rest of the money owed to him at the time his contract was terminated, not including compensatory and punitive damages.
In today's column, David Aldridge of NBA.com writes that the strong backcourts of the Eastern Conference's up-and-down teams are giving them hope for the future. Who's the best of the bunch? Evan Turner, who might be slightly biased, says it's him and Sixers teammate Jrue Holiday. "It's not an arrogant thing or anything like that," Turner said. "We're the best. It's not even -- no disrespect to anybody else -- it's not even close...Obviously, John [Wall] is a next-level-fast point guard. Bradley Beal has been great. But I just feel like we match up better. Kyrie Irving's a great player, and also Dion [Waiters] can definitely play. But the stuff that Jrue and I have been through, you can't really speed down that rock." Here's more from Aldridge..
"My legal team and I will begin carefully reviewing the actions taken and statements made against me in the meeting room in my absence," Hunter said. "I look forward to gathering the evidence showing how certain individuals made sure the outcome was pre-ordained."
Hunter characterized the manner in which he was terminated as an "extremely troubling process" that has "set a terrible precedent for the union. It violates every tenet of fairness upon which the union was founded." He said he will "examine all of my options," including whether his side could be heard "in a different forum."
"I do not consider today's vote the end, only a different beginning," Hunter said.
Following an investigation into the business practices during Hunter's tenure as NBPA executive vice president, prominent union voices have expressed displeasure with his leadership in recent weeks, which led to his ouster following a meeting on Saturday afternoon.
5:21pm: Wojnarowski writes that the NBPA's decision to fire Hunter could lead to a legal dispute over the $10.5MM remaining on his contract.
4:38pm: Fisher and Matt Bonner will remain union president and vice president, respectively, according to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). James Jones will serve as secretary/treasurer, TNT's David Aldridge adds via Twitter. They'll join Stackhouse, Roger Mason, Chris Paul, Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry and Willie Green on the new executive committee, tweets USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt. In brief remarks, Fisher hinted that he expects Hunter will take legal action following his dismissal, Washburn notes (Twitter link).
4:29pm: The vote to oust Hunter was 24-0, Wojnarowski tweets, with six player representatives apparently absent from the meeting.
3:50pm: The players union has voted to remove longtime executive director Billy Hunter from his position, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). The move has appeared likely over the last couple of days, as Hunter had been placed on an indefinite leave of absence following the release of an independent investigation critical of his practices. In a meeting today that Hunter did not attend, player representatives voted in a "decisive manner" to fire Hunter, and LeBron James spoke of the need for an overhaul, Wojnarowski tweets.
James and Nets reserve Jerry Stackhouse were two of the most vocal players at the meeting, and Stackhouse excoriated union president Derek Fisher, who has been cast as one of Hunter's opponents in a yearlong power struggle atop the union, Wojnarowski adds (Twitter link). It's unclear whether the players voted to fire him with or without cause, though it appeared two days ago that firing Hunter with cause was the favored route. According to Hunter's contract, a firing with cause would entail "embezzlement, theft, larceny, material fraud or other acts of dishonesty" on Hunter's part, and the "acts of dishonesty" clause looked to be the players' best chance to pursue the action. A firing with cause would allow Hunter to collect his salary for the remainder of the year and for any accrued and unused vacation, rather than the full value of his contract as would be necessary in a firing without cause, as Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today detailed.
Hunter, who's been in charge of the NBPA for 17 years, created a blog to present his response to the report by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison that laid out Hunter's abuses of power while in office. There were conflicting reports from Hunter's lawyers and the NBPA over whether Hunter was allowed to attend today's meeting.
Several influential agents have been privately discussing Don Fehr, former baseball union chief and current head of the NHL players union, as a successor to Hunter. A couple of weeks ago, Wojnarowski reported that the union may look for a replacement in B. Todd Jones, the current Minnesota attorney general and acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Agent Arn Tellem, speaking with Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal, advised the players to take their time in selecting a new executive director.
12:39pm: Berger tweets that the agents' meeting has wrapped, and the feeling among those who participated is that Hunter will be fired.
11:16am: Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports (via Twitter) that lawyers are presenting a summary of the findings of an investigation into NBPA executive director Billy Hunter to a group of player agents in Houston. Berger also tweets that players are planning to meet Saturday afternoon to discuss whether to take action against Hunter. Hunter will not be in attendance at this meeting.
On Friday, Hunter issued a response to claims made by members of the NBPA, maintaining his innocence against any accusations of wrongdoing and highlighting progress made by the union under his leadership. It was reported on Friday evening that the NBPA is leaning towards firing Hunter.
The widespread belief among players, agents and other stakeholders is that NBPA player representatives will vote to oust executive director Billy Hunter in tommorrow's meeting, reports Howard Beck of the New York Times. A representative from each team will cast a vote, and members of the interim executive committee might also be permitted to vote, according to Beck. As many as 50 players are expected to attend the meeting, during which a new executive committee will also be elected.
Union representatives say no decision has been made about whether to invite Hunter, but Hunter's lawyers insist their client has been made unwelcome. Hunter, placed on indefinite leave of absence after the release of an independent audit critical of his practices while in charge of the union, released a presentation that he claimed was in lieu of the ability to address the players in person at the meeting.
"On every call, I have raised this issue of attending with their lawyers, and they have said consistently: you can continue assuming you are not coming," said Michael Carlinsky, an attorney for Hunter.
Agent Arn Tellem, who represents more than 50 players, is advising his clients to fire Hunter. Speaking with Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal, he laid out recommendations for the players as they meet to decide Hunter's fate, and gave his thoughts on how they should go about replacing the executive director should they choose to let him go.
The NBA players' union will meet this weekend in Houston to discuss the future of executive director Billy Hunter, along with a handful of other topics. In the wake of a report on the NBPA by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Hunter has been placed on indefinite leave in advance of this weekend's meetings.
However, it appears Hunter may not be permitted to attend the Houston meetings to rebut the findings in the Paul Weiss report. Instead, Hunter and his representatives have created a blog, on which they've published a 21-page preliminary response to the report, calling it "disturbing" that Hunter hasn't been invited to Houston to address the players. The blog also includes a PowerPoint presentation that Hunter had hoped to deliver to the union at this weekend's meetings.
Among the points Hunter makes in his response: No criminal acts were found by the Paul Weiss report, Delaware law was observed for the signing of his contract and for hiring decisions, and no cross-examination of the witnesses used in the Paul Weiss report was permitted to assess their credibility. Hunter also points to the progress he's made during his 17-year stint as the union's executive director, including his success in "turning the union's finances around."
Whether or not Hunter ultimately gets the opportunity to address the NBPA in Houston, we heard yesterday that his lawyers plan to present this information directly to union members this weekend.
Recently placed on indefinite leave, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter is prepared to actively pursue efforts to keep his job in the next coming days as the annual player's meeting is set to take place this weekend in Houston (Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today). Facing accusations of nepotism and questions about the approval of his contract, Hunter and his lawyers are prepared to refute the independent report conducted by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, which says that he failed to properly put the interests of the Union above his personal interests.
"There's no there there...This is an effort to make zero plus zero plus zero equal one," said Corey Worcestor, one of Hunter's lawyers who asserts that his client had done nothing wrong and acted in accordance with union bylaws.
This article from NBA.com indicates that while Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison originally planned to release a supplement to their original report, the New York law firm will hold off for now being that the government is now conducting its own investigation.
Zillgitt writes that the players will need a majority vote from the executive committee in order to fire Hunter, with or without cause. According to his contract, firing with cause would involve finding him guilty of "embezzlement, theft, larceny, material fraud or other acts of dishonesty." In this case, Hunter would be paid for the remainder of the year. Should he be fired without cause, Hunter would accrue all of what he is owed under his current contract, which isn't thought to be a consideration among the players union at this point. Zillgitt also adds the opinion of Geoffrey Rapp, a sports law expert and professor at the Toledo College of Law, who says that the players would likely only focus on the "acts of dishonesty" phrase being that Hunter hasn't been accused of committing embezzlement, theft, or larceny.
According to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, J.J. Redick, who serves as the Magic's acting representative to the Union, along with the rest of his teammates in Orlando believe that Hunter's time as executive director is up:"I think most everyone in the NBA has reached the same conclusion, and that’s that we need some change.”
Kyle Korver, who is the Hawks' representative, also weighed in: "I think one of the weaknesses so far at this point has been a lack of communication. I think a lot of us were taken by surprise by a lot of things that supposedly have been found."
While Hunter is expected to release a statement to defend himself, the New York law firm plans to present information directly to union membership this weekend in Houston.
In addition to publishing a new installment of his Postups column, Ken Berger of CBSports.com joined Kevin Corke (video link) to discuss a few trade rumors. Here are a few items of note from both Berger links:
The 2013 draft class took a bit of a hit today, when the University of Kentucky announced today that freshman Nerlens Noel has torn his ACL, and will undergo surgery in the coming weeks -- he's expected to be out at least six to eight months (Twitter links). Nonetheless, while there's a possibility Noel will return to the Wildcats for his sophomore year, Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com hears that NBA people still expect the big man to be a top-five pick if he declares for the draft this summer (Twitter link).
Here are a few more Wednesday odds and ends from around the league: