In light of a legal investigation into Billy Hunter's activities as executive president of the National Basketball Players Association, a change needs to be made at the top.
According to a Yahoo! Sports report by Adrian Wojnarowski on the issues behind Hunter's infractions as executive director, the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison publicized its 500-page report on Hunter's actions over the course of his time at the helm on Thursday afternoon.
Based on the findings, the law firm had this to say about Hunter's role as executive director moving forward:
"Based on the findings of this report, the NBPA should consider whether Mr. Hunter should remain as the Union’s Executive Director and whether new and more effective controls should be enacted to govern the NBPA, its Foundation and its Executive Director, whoever that may be," the report concluded.
The man who helped guide the players into a battle against the league in the summers of 1998 and 2011 has been at his post since 1996, but the most recent discoveries into his activities while head of the association are quite appalling.
The most striking news? Hunter cut himself a $15 million contract without the approval of the NBA players, an action that took place in 2010 and was never ratified by the roughly 430 players that make up the union on a yearly basis.
In it, Hunter is implicated for never clearing his salary with the players, investing union funds into personal and other capital ventures not otherwise associated with the NBPA, and for hiring under-qualified family members and friends to positions of importance within the union.
Here are a few of the highlights of his imposed infractions, per the Wojnarowski report:
Hunter "never told the union’s executive committee or player representatives that his current employment contract, which was executed in 2010, was not properly approved under the union’s By-Laws, even though by at least November 2011 outside counsel to the Union had told Mr. Hunter that the necessary approval had not occurred and remained necessary."
As detailed in an April report by Y! Sports, Hunter "involved family and friends in union business as employees or vendors without full disclosure and the disinterested approval of the union’s officers and directors."
"Created an atmosphere at the NBPA that discouraged challenges to his authority, including by allowing the union’s former general counsel, Gary Hall, to stop former secretary-treasurer Pat Garrity from speaking freely."
Hunter attempted to invest several million dollars of union funds into a failing New Jersey bank with business ties to his son.
Based on the first fact alone, the law firm has recommended that the players no longer consider Hunter tied to a salary or owed anything at all by the union for which he's worked for over 15 years. By not negotiating his own salary through the proper by-laws and channels, he's forfeited any right of unlawful termination.
That being said, the NBA should cut ties with Hunter immediately.
The league is in a period of prosperity, and is peaking interest in parts of the world it never has before. Part of the problem with the ratification of the CBA in 2011 was the lack of revenue sharing both between teams and from owners.
If Hunter was blowing money on his own personal endeavors and taking a salary probably exceeding what the players would have been willing to extend, then it's a serious problem. For a reference point, Hunter would be a significant salary cap hit on a team in a smaller media market with his $15 million salary.
Current union player president Derek Fisher (although not a current NBA player, he is still acting president) had this to say about the most recent revelations regarding Hunter—a man Fisher worked side-by-side with to help solve the CBA crisis of 2011.
Here's his quote, courtesy of ESPN's Dave McMenamin:
"I am looking forward to reviewing today's report, findings and recommendations that have just been issued. My hope is that the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, which was chosen by the Staff and Special Committee, has done a thorough review of the NBPA and addressed the concerns of the countless players, staff and myself. As there is an ongoing investigation by the Government as well, I hope that this is a chance for us to become an upstanding, strong organization with the sole purpose of serving the best interests of current and future players."
As John Karalis reports on Twitter, the players have every right in the world to be mad at the man supposedly hard at work in making their lives easier and more profitable from the business side of the NBA:
If I was an NBA player, I'd have serious problem w/Billy Hunter. Cost players money in the lockout, in negotiations, & misused dues.— John Karalis (@RedsArmy_John) January 17, 2013
Hunter hasn't had a chance to respond to the report. In the spirit of fairness and the foundation of our judicial system that allows the accused to defend itself, it's too early to fully indict him on the basis of this report.
However, a 500-page report by a professional law firm with no vested interest does not point to any foul play or misleading facts.
The writing is on the wall for the players—Hunter lied, and almost got away with it. The NBA doesn't do well with that attitude, and with the recent reports of both Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o in the middle of scandals involving bending the truth, they should make the move to relieve him of his duties as soon as the investigation is confirmed and reviewed.
It's the only move left to make.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team. Check him out on Twitter for more analysis, in-depth coverage and the occasional personal tweet.
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