Billy Hunter needs to find his spine.
The head of the NBA Players Association is at odds with David Stern as the two sides prepare for the war to end all wars. The ongoing labor dispute threatens the start of next season, and as of right now, the owners have no willingness to negotiate.
There haven't been talks, and there aren't many promising signs on the horizon. As the players struggle to fight for their futures, agents have been pushing the union head to decertify and force the league's hand.
Hunter has cowardly refused to do so.
Per Yahoo! Sports:
“Right now, it’s a respectful disagreement with [the agents] and Billy,” an agent briefed on the meeting told Yahoo! Sports. “But it’s getting to a ‘[expletive]-you’ point. We will blow this thing up.”
The owners are counting on panic to take over the union once the players start missing checks. That’s when the owners want to cut a deal, when the players are most vulnerable and fearful of losing a full season’s salary. The players risk getting the same lousy deal next year after already losing a year’s salary.
Essentially, it’s come down to this: Hunter is still selling diplomacy, but the agents want to commence fighting. No one expects the league to seriously negotiate issues until they fear the courts could rule against them.
Will we miss NBA games in 2011-12?
If Hunter cares about the players at all, it's time for him to step up and take the fight to Stern and the ruthless owners, who couldn't care less about compromise. The union head has been spineless in the face of the commissioner's force, and if he wants to protect the future of the league's stars he has to take the fight to the owners.
A failure to do so would show a complete lack of toughness and leadership over the most important moments in NBA history. There have been grave concerns about Hunter's ability to guide the players through this labor war, and their greatest fears have been confirmed as he preaches fair play.
Fair play is not going to get the players a good deal. The owners will not fight fair. This is going to be an ugly, despicable battle that threatens to splinter the league. Hunter cannot call for everyone to sit around the campfire, holding hands while they hope for the best.
Anything other than taking the fight to the owners is pathetic at best and shows Hunter's true colors as a supposed leader. Stern and the owners have prepared for this for years and will not relent in their quest for dominance.
The league never planned to negotiate or do what's best for basketball. The sooner Hunter realizes that, the better.
The owners want what's best for them, as they have called on Stern to protect them from their own devices. If Hunter fails to fight, he will have the players' blood on his hands, because the league will rip him to shreds.
If he decertifies, he has a chance at victory. If Hunter doesn't have it in him, he should step down and let someone who has the stomach for battle take over.