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Billy Hunter Lawsuit: Suing NBPA Will Harm Ex-Executive Director's Legacy

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10:  Billy Hunter, Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association (R), and Derek Fisher, President of the National Basketball Players Association speak at a press conference after NBA labor negotiations at the New York Helmsley Hotel in the early morning hours of November 10, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIMay 16, 2013

Former National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter is not helping his tainted legacy by filing a lawsuit against his former employer and NBPA President Derek Fisher.

Ken Berger of CBS Sports reported on Thursday that Hunter is suing for defamation and breach of contract. Notable among the accusations is that Fisher and his publicist, Jamie Wior, conspired to oust him from his job while secretly negotiating to end the 2011 lockout with various NBA owners.

As Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles reports, the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard has yet to respond, and wisely so:

It was a 36-page complaint, and these are clearly bold, harsh claims aimed at Fisher and the NBPA. Check out this excerpt, which is aimed at Fisher specifically:

[Fisher] was incentivized to complete a deal as quickly as possible given his limited playing career and need to secure his future job prospects by staying on good terms with the NBA and team owners.

Hunter did not name the player who called him on October 27, 2011, to tell him a deal was in place for the new CBA, and that will go a long way in determining the merit of this suit.

That exclusion from negotiations and subsequent firing has Hunter seeking at least $10.5 million in salary, which he was owed through 2015—the year his contract was supposed to expire. Interestingly, Hunter stated that he would continue to stand up for players' interests, but would not stand for this attack on his character.

Even if Hunter's accusations are true, as Alicia Jessop of Ruling Sports contends, perhaps the alleged conspiracy was key to the progress in agreeing to the new collective bargaining agreement:

The problem with Hunter's suit is that he is not acting in the best interest of the players in this instance, which seems to already contradict his testimony. It is only going to cause more harm to his reputation—regardless of the outcome.

Was he acting in the best interest of players when he showed nepotistic tendencies in hiring family members to various staff positions within the NBPA? That was primarily what lost him his job in the first place, in the form of a unanimous 24-0 vote against him by the union's board of player representatives.

The Paul-Weiss law firm found that Hunter did not effectively manage the conflicting interests generated by his uniquely selective hiring processes in those instances.

Fisher may have wrested control of the union, but it resulted in basketball ultimately returning to NBA arenas and at least a partial season last year.

If it is indeed true that Fisher used owners as pawns and his publicist as a manipulator to have influence in the Association after his playing days are over, it sounds like rather typical politics.

Basketball ultimately returned to the court, thanks to Fisher. That's what the general public will take away from this saga as it develops, and Hunter—whose biggest faults have nothing to do with Fisher's apparent backdoor tactics—may win, but it won't do anything to enhance his standing in the sport.

Media scrutiny will continually plague him. No matter what side of the debate outsiders are on, Hunter is only helping himself pocket a sizable sum of money, which has nothing to do with the players' best interests.

Note: All background information and prior events that led to Hunter's firing were obtained from Ken Berger's report.

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