He’s been completely cut off since being put on leave Feb. 1. The 70-year-old Hunter would like to keep his $3 million a year job, and if given a chance to address players he could make some persuasive points on his behalf.
As he’s noted since the report’s release, he wasn’t found to have taken part in any criminal activity involving union funds. There was no anti-nepotism policy, and Hunter has since fired his daughter and daughter-in-law _ whom the report said were qualified and not unusually compensated _ after enacting one.
The report even notes that his previous contract extensions were handled in the same manner as his 2010 one, which hadn’t been approved by executive committee and player representatives according to union bylaws, perhaps allowing him to make the argument that extensions aren’t governed by the same rules as appointments.
Hunter, still being investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. attorney’s office, has said little, though he did defend his record in an interview with the New York Times. He didn’t return a call from the AP seeking comment.
He has brought what was once a struggling organization financially into good shape. He was well-liked by many players but few of their agents, who have been furious with some the union’s collective bargaining strategies.
Players accepted maximum salaries during the 1998 lockout. They went from a 57 percent guarantee of basketball-related income in the previous labor deal to 50 in this one, a cut of about $280 million annually in salary costs, though some owners were angry the league didn’t get more.
“I have lots of thoughts but I don’t think it would be prudent to express them, other than to say that as I sit back and watch the march of collective bargaining, it’s interesting to me that the NFL was about a 50-50 deal, the NHL was a 50-50 deal, we’re a 50-50 deal,” Commissioner David Stern said when asked about Hunter’s situation.
“I think that the union, our union, which is not just about Billy Hunter but was about Kevin Murphy, a very respected economist (who) was in every session, and Jeffrey Kessler, a very famous sports lawyer who counseled players and unions in all three sports was there for every part of it. It wasn’t just about Billy, it was about a team that was put together.”
Some or all of the team could soon be replaced. First, players have to decide on Hunter. That may not be easy. Multiple veterans have not only said players won’t read the report, but that it didn’t uncover anything new.
“It’s all alarming. But like I said, there was nothing in that report I hadn’t heard over the last 12 years,” Miami’s Shane Battier said.
He acknowledged that it’s “on the players” for being so disconnected that Hunter may have grown to feel he could run the union any way he saw fit. Bryant agreed it may be time for star players to get more involved in a union whose executive committee is filled almost entirely by lower-level players. There will be elections to open spots Saturday.
Hunter’s situation could be the one that gets them to start paying attention.
“First, you’ve got to get the right leaders and then you’ve got to discuss situations,” Perkins said. “Without going into details, you’ve got a lot of guys that’s unhappy about a lot of certain things that happened in the last CBA that wasn’t agreed upon, that just happened. At the end of the day, we’ve just got to make sure that we do it together and just discuss it.”
AP Sports Writers Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis and Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
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