The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) has hired Kevin Johnson to lead the search for its new executive director. Ever since the NBA lockout shortened the season in 2011, unity within the union has been in question. With the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement and the initial refusal to come to terms on a new agreement, the season was delayed until Christmas Day and season was reduced from 82 games to 66. While basketball wasn’t being played in the courts, hard ball was indeed being played in the offices and meetings by the NBA Players Association and NBA owners. While a new CBA was eventually agreed upon and games were finally allowed to be played, the function of the NBPA was still coming to terms.
After the 2011 NBA lockout, the NBPA has seen a few changes in their leadership positions. Former NFL Redskins wide receiver and NBPA director at the time Billy Hunter accused then NBPA president Derek Fisher of privately meeting with then NBA commissioner David Stern. Hunter pressed on and believes Fisher and Stern were working on a proposal for the players to accept a less percentage of the revenue in order to end the lockout. Fisher ultimately denied the allegations in an open letter to the players. While Hunter attempted to hire a firm to investigate Fisher, an independent audit of the union’s business practices were in the mist of an investigation themselves. The team found Hunter to have had conflicts of interest, lacking of proper and professional governance, and also did not disclose the information that his contract wasn’t properly ratified. The NBA players voted unanimously to remove Billy Hunter from his director position. A lawsuit soon followed by Hunter, however the judge in the case dismissed 12 of the 14 claims proposed. While there are two currently pending, they are most likely to be dismissed as well.
Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento and the main catalyst for the Sacramento Kings to remain in the city, has been appointed by the union to head the search of a new NBPA director to replace Billy Hunter. He has met with current NBPA president Chris Paul in discussion of potential candidates. While this relationship of president and director has the hopes to be less volatile than previous collective parties, many see the process to not be as smoothly as originally thought.
“It’s a delicate process,” Derek Fisher has said to the media about the search for a new director. Fisher expressed his sentiment by stating how the process should not be rushed and should take however much time it is needed to be able find the right person. The person for the job would not only fill the role but needs to be able to have a good connection with the players. Fisher did express how please he was for the NBPA to choose Kevin Johnson as the man to lead the search, stating how great it was to work with someone with such an influential position as well as being a former NBA player who knows the league and the players well.
According to those who work closely in the matter, the names that have been circulating in the offices a lot are David White, the executive director nationally for the Screen Actors Guild and Michele Roberts, an attorney at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher. While it is not clear who currently has a lead or if either names are being seriously considered, Kevin Johnson has a lot on his plate as he leads the NBPA executive director search. If its anything like the Seattle-Sacramento team situation, it is believed that the players union will be in good hands.
Commentary By Hector Carrion