HOUSTON — Billy Hunter was ousted unanimously as executive director of the union by NBA players who said Saturday they will “no longer be divided, misled, misinformed.”
“This is our union, and we have taken it back,” players’ association president Derek Fisher said.
Fisher said it was a day of change for the union, which has seemed inevitable since a review last month was critical of Hunter’s leadership and urged players to consider whether they wanted to keep him.
“We want to make it clear that we are here to serve only the best interests of the players,” Fisher said. “No threats, no lies, no distractions will stop us from serving our memberships.”
Hunter said in a statement that he hadn’t received word of his dismissal and blasted the interim executive committee for the process it followed, saying “certain individuals made sure the outcome was pre-ordained.”
“In addition, given the legitimate legal and governance questions surrounding the eligibility of the members who voted and the adherence, or lack thereof, to the constitution and bylaws, I do not consider today’s vote the end, only a different beginning,” Hunter said. “My legal representatives and I will resume communication with the NBPA to determine how to best move forward in the best interests of all parties.”
In brief remarks, Fisher said a new executive committee was elected, and he will remain president. The Spurs’ Matt Bonner is vice president, Miami’s James Jones is secretary-treasurer and the Nets’ Jerry Stackhouse the first vice president. The Hornets’ Roger Mason Jr., the Clippers’ Chris Paul, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Denver’s Andre Iguodala and the Clippers’ Willie Green are vice presidents.
Hunter had led the union since 1996, guiding the players through three collective bargaining agreements and helping bring their average salaries to more than $5 million, highest in team sports. But Fisher pushed for the review after a falling out between the two leaders, and though it found Hunter wasn’t guilty of any criminal activity involving union funds, it cited him for a number of conflicts of interests and poor choices that led the players to remove him.
Commissioner David Stern was aware of the union’s actions but had little comment.
“We await notification from the union as to who we should be dealing with because it has been a principle of faith with us that we will deal with whomever the union tells us to deal with,” he said.
Released in January, the review, conducted by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, criticized Hunter for hiring family members and friends. It said he knew his 2010 contract extension wasn’t properly ratified by union rules and raised questions about everything from travel expenses to the amount he spent on gifts.
Players acted quickly, putting Hunter on a leave of absence Feb. 1. He hoped to be invited to Saturday’s annual meeting, which included about 35 players, superstar LeBron James among them. But Hunter’s attorneys said their client was told he wouldn’t be welcomed.