Billy Hunter was fired as executive director of the NBA players union Saturday, with a bold, decisive vote and a public rebuke. Twenty-four player representatives voted...
HOUSTON — Billy Hunter was fired as executive director of the NBA players union Saturday, with a bold, decisive vote and a public rebuke.
Twenty-four player representatives voted unanimously to terminate Hunter, ending his 16 ½-year tenure. The move was announced by the union president, Derek Fisher, who led the drive to oust Hunter over questionable business practices that have drawn the scrutiny of three government agencies.
“Going forward, we will no longer be divided, misled, misinformed,” Fisher said in a news conference. “This is our union, and we have taken it back.”
The decision to terminate Hunter was made during a lively two-hour meeting that involved elected player representatives and others, including All-Stars LeBron James and Tyson Chandler.
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James and Jerry Stackhouse were the two most forceful voices in the room, according to two people at the meeting. James, the league’s biggest star, and Stackhouse, a respected veteran, “literally drove the discussion” and rallied the players to make the change, the witnesses said. About 40 players participated in the meeting, although several left early to attend to other commitments.
Hunter, 70, was charged with nepotism, poor management and abuse of union resources in an independent audit released last month. He remains the subject of a criminal probe by the U.S. Attorneys Office. He is also being investigated by the federal Labor Department and the New York state attorney general.
Although the outside audit, conducted by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, found no criminal wrongdoing, it concluded that Hunter had put his own interests ahead of the union and it recommended that the players reconsider his employment.
Hunter was fired with three years and approximately $10.5 million remaining on his contract, and it is expected that he will pursue legal action to claim that sum. The audit concluded that Hunter’s contract was not properly approved in 2010 and was therefore unenforceable, a position that Hunter’s lawyers will challenge.
Hunter was not invited to Saturday’s meeting, to the dismay of his legal team, which maintains that he has been denied due process.
“I have yet to receive any notification, other than published news reports, that the NBPA has terminated my employment,” Hunter said in a statement. “If accurate, it is indicative of the extremely troubling process followed by the NBPA during the past few weeks. During the days and weeks ahead, my legal team and I will begin carefully reviewing the actions taken and statements made against me in the meeting room in my absence. I look forward to gathering the evidence showing how certain individuals made sure the outcome was preordained.”
Hunter had served as executive director since July 1996.
The players also elected seven players to the executive committee: James Jones, Roger Mason Jr., Chris Paul, Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry and Willie Green.
Travis Leslie scored 19 points to earn most valuable player honors, and former Husky Justin Dentmon had 18 points as the Prospects team got a 139-125 win over the Futures team in the D-League All-Star Game.