Billy Hunter defends NBPA record after calls for his ouster

Patrick McDermott

For the first time, Billy Hunter addressed the allegations against him in the audit.

A week ago, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter was suspended indefinitely as a response to a 469-page audit that accused him of multiple instances of wrongdoing. For the first time, Hunter responded to those allegations. He sat down with The New York Times for 65 minutes on Wednesday.

The players meet on Feb. 16 during All-Star weekend, and Hunter could be fired that day. He is not going down without a fight and is being represented by Thomas R. Ashley, a criminal defense attorney.

On hiring family members and friends:

Hunter said he had no regrets about employing family members. "The union has not suffered as a consequence of any of that," he said. "Let’s make that point clear. There’s been no detriment suffered by the union. We did not have an anti-nepotism policy in place, so there was nothing unprofessional, unethical about hiring my children."

On concerns over a $1.3 million payout for unused vacation time:

"I don’t keep the vacation records," Hunter said. "And they only cite one e-mail." Hunter said he did not keep a personal journal to record his days off, conceding, "That’s been one of my problems."

On using union funds for gifts, including a $22,000 watch for Derek Fisher:

Hunter said the purchase of gifts for executive committee members was a tradition that predated his tenure, and that the union’s bylaws allow for some compensation of committee members.

On spending $28,000 in legal funds for Charles Smith:

"He asked for assistance, he agreed to repay the money and he did," Hunter said. "It was never a gift. The understanding was always that he would repay the money, and he repaid it."

On not having a properly ratified contract, meaning the union could fire him without paying the $10.5 million he is owed:

Hunter and his lawyer disputed the audit’s conclusions and indicated that they would fight to enforce the contract. They conceded that the contract was not ratified by a two-thirds vote of the executive committee and the player representatives. However, they contend that requirement, which is contained in the union bylaws, pertains only to the appointment of a new executive director, not to contract renewals.

Hunter has served as the executive director of the NBPA since 1996. His current contract expires in 2016.

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