x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Billy Hunter has become the hunted with players in the NBA

The NBA union has lacked strong leadership for years and union chief Billy Hunter's exit is overdue, writes Steve Dillbeck.

Billy Hunter, theexecutive director of the NBA players union.
Billy Hunter, theexecutive director of the NBA players union.

Remember the thrilling spat between the NBA's players and owners? The one that truncated the 2011/12 season? No one is eager to see it happen again, but in five years the first contract opt-out arrives, and the players are already digging in for a fight.

When player representatives gather in Houston during the All-Star weekend, February 16 and 17, they will have more pressing business at hand: the suspension of their union chief, Billy Hunter.

Hunter's leadership during the 2011 collective bargaining process was so unimpressive that when word came of some suspicious business dealings, the players ordered an outside review.

A blistering report was delivered two weeks ago and on Friday a five-member players committee placed him on indefinite leave. The report showed several dubious business practices by Hunter, including nepotism and not getting proper approval for his US$15million (Dh55.1m) contract extension.

Hunter, 70, is not giving up without a fight. After the report was released, he dismissed three family members who worked at the union and severed the union's contract with a financial services firm that employs his son.

Hunter's attorney, Thomas Ashley, had indignation at the ready, saying: "I am deeply troubled by the lack of fundamental fairness shown my client by a group whose authority to take such action is highly questionable."

The union has lacked strong leadership for years. Hunter's exit is overdue.