By Rob Mahoney
With his job as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association on the line, Billy Hunter is in a full-on scramble to change the increasingly negative perception of his tenure overnight. Player representatives from all 30 teams will meet on Saturday to determine whether to retain Hunter as the head of their union, but Hunter will not be allowed to make his own case; according to Howard Beck of the New York Times, Hunter has still not been invited to the meeting and "will not speak to players before they decide whether to fire him."
Hunter, for obvious reasons, feels differently. TrueHoop's Henry Abbott elaborates:
So, will Hunter be in Houston, and will he be allowed to address the players?
Indeed, Hunter might show up! That's the word. As of late Thursday, that's still unresolved. Nobody knows if he's coming or not. His personal attorneys have been arguing he is entitled to state his case.
Yes, that's creating some tension.
The meeting, which will be run by interim union head Ron Klempner and president Derek Fisher has been intentionally scheduled at a time and place that would make it very easy for superstars to attend after All-Star practice concludes. The presence of stars, the thinking goes, could embolden players to imagine life after Hunter. (Theoretically it could also lend Hunter critical support, should any stars see his point of view.)
Regardless of whether Hunter is actually allowed to make a presentation at the meeting, he has released his full materials (including a 21-page response to the report detailing his misconduct) to any party that might be interested. A lengthy document won't likely be as convincing as Hunter would be himself, but it's clear that he's making every effort possible to save face and play defense with the deciding vote looming.
Hunter has been on an indefinite leave of absence since earlier this month after facing allegations of nepotism (among other strategic missteps), which Hunter attempted to quickly brush under the rug. Shortly after those allegations became public, Bloomberg.com reported that Hunter had cut ties between the players’ union and his daughter, daughter-in-law and son, who each received union funds directly or indirectly. Hunter then looked to remedy those decisions more formally through a series of proposed reforms, which included the suggested adoption of an “anti-nepotism policy” and policies concerning conflicts of interest and other employment issues. Two-thirds of the 30 team reps would need to side with Hunter in order for him to keep his job at this point, a mark that seems improbable given the extent of the allegations, the reported dissatisfaction with the union's workings, and the poor infrastructure of the union itself.