The ongoing tension between Derek Fisher, the president of the National Basketball Players Association and Billy Hunter, the executive director has escalated significantly. Fisher has called for an audit into Hunter’s business practices, while the union’s executive committee has called for Fisher’s resignation.
Players union vice president Maurice Evans took a moment after Wizards practice on Friday to discuss the issues.
Is there a vote on Fisher’s status?
Evans: There hasn’t been a vote. There’s been a series of calls, starting last week with Derek trying to initiate a business review and an audit of the union, but he did that without the consent of the board. No one player, even the president, has more responsibility, or power, than the players. It’s joint decisions that are made, and no one on the board supported that decision. We feel that we should handle allegations against the union, against Billy Hunter or Derek Fisher internally.
We’ve given Derek that respect in the past. Everything that was alleged during the lockout, we pulled him in and handled those matters internally, and we don’t feel like he’s given Billy that proper respect. We welcome him [Fisher] to a call where he could come and defend himself and explain is allegations or concerns and we would address them at that time.
Again, the players have questions and concerns as well, but he refused to come on the call. He tried to contend with the union call where we had all the executive members on there, with the exception of Chris Paul, because he had practice. It was disappointing because he refused to come on the call. He tried to chime in multiple times to the players, and finally, during that call, all of us asked Billy about misappropriation of funds, nepotism, lockout strategies, etc.
We all took part in the lockout strategy as well. We’re just as much responsible for any decisions made during that lockout as well. As far as the nepotism and the misallocation of funds, and any other other questions, Billy answered those questions to our satisfaction. He was very open and candid with us, and we were satisfied.
Again the players were disappointed, because Derek has yet to address us. The general body of the 400 players that we represent, they have no understanding of what’s going on, so we’re doing them a disservice by allowing this situation to drag on or flame up as if there’s really a problem which we’re focusing on.
We’re having a great season. There’s a lot of parity and competition in both conferences, competition for the seventh and eights spot in the playoffs, and this is exactly what we were trying to accomplish with the new CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement].
What is the next step with Fisher?
We sent out a letter on behalf of the entire board to Derek, telling Derek that we have appreciated hos leadership up until this point, up until the lockout. From the end of the lockout until now, we have been dissatisfied with his actions.
There’s been a number of actions that have been questionable, and that have lost him the confidence of the board. Not the other players, because the other players are not up to speed with what’s going on, so we’ve asked Derek to resign his position and allow us to separate from the union and leave with his integrity, and all the good things that he’s done before this thing gets messy, because that’s not what we’re about.
Does Fisher have specific charges against Hunter, or is he on a fishing expedition?
I can’t speak on Derek’s behalf, but we have conducted an audit as recent as February which did not show any discrepancies. The last time [before February] we conducted a business review was 2006, and they were open to a business review, but again, we were more concerned with the procedure, the way this came about.
It seems more like a personal vendetta than it does business that needs to be conducted. Again, we’re satisfied with the way the union s being run. We do feel like there are some things that can be run more efficiently, but again, we accomplished the goal at hand which was to get a deal.
Now at our summer meetings, and even at All-Star weekend, we started to address ways to make the union function more efficiently and better serve the needs of the players. Again, there was no president there. I had to take on those responsibilities, because again he [Fisher] chose not to participate.
There have been a number of actions we’re trying to handle internally as best we can.
If Fisher refuses to resign, what happens next?
We will have a board meeting and determine with Mr. Hunter what the next steps are, but again, we’re trying to ask Derek to resign rather than try to force Derek out of his position because we still do have respect for Derek and we wish nothing but the best for him. He has done a great job up until the negotiations.
Evans said there will be another call on Friday among the union executive committee members. They are Evans, Roger Mason Jr. (Wizards), Keyon Dooling (Celtics), James Jones (Heat), Matt Bonner (Spurs) and Chris Paul (Clippers).