Ousted NBA players’ association executive director Billy Hunter alleges in a lawsuit that president Derek Fisher had a secret deal with owners during the 2011 lockout that benefited himself, his publicist and certain players.
Hunter contends that Fisher undermined Hunter’s efforts to make an agreement and interfered with his position by secretly negotiating with select owners in violation of union bylaws.
Filed Thursday in California Superior Court, the suit seeks unspecified damages for defamation and breach of contract. It also names the National Basketball Players Association and Jamie Wior, Fisher’s publicist, and says Fisher and Wior worked after the lockout ended “to terminate his employment without cause and in violation of his contract.”
“Wior harbored aspirations to assume a position of responsibility with the NBPA,” the suit says. “She set out to craft a new public persona for Fisher, taking control of his media appearances and public statements and encouraging him to overreach his authority.”
Hunter was ousted in February following an investigation into his business practices that found no illegal conduct but cited several conflicts of interest, questionable business decisions and hiring practices. Fisher finished the season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“It’s unfortunate that I must take this action against an organization where I had the privilege of working with many dedicated associates over 17 years,” Hunter said in a statement. “I’m proud of our record of achievement on behalf of players during my tenure as Executive Director and will continue to stand up for their interests. But I cannot let stand attacks on my character or accept what has been done.”
The suit says owners were aided by Fisher when they locked out players in July 2011 after the expiration of the last collective bargaining agreement. It says the veteran guard realized he could have been on his last contract as a player, so he wanted to secure a “soft landing” after his career by keeping good relations with the league and team owners, even while Hunter was committed to a firm stance.
“Unbeknownst to Hunter, however, Fisher was secretly negotiating with the Certain Owners — on his own and without any authority — to settle the negotiations on terms less favorable to the players,” the suit says.