With every day that passes and his union members go without a paycheck Billy Hunter’s once solid grip on the NBPA erodes. Hunter has been in place for over several CBA’s. During his tenure the BRI share for the players’ increased to 57%. All seemed right in the world and the union asked few questions.
Now that a global credit crisis and stagnant economy has tightened the purse strings of fans and teams, the players are being asked to sacrifice. The tealeaves indicated for quite some time that a work stoppage would result the players took measures to combat any loss of income with insurance, deferred payments, and overseas playing options.
Even before the lockout began many agents advised the NBPA, their clients, and Billy Hunter to decertify right away. Pro-decertification agents felt that this process was the only play on the players’ part to create leverage in the negotiations. However, Hunter resisted due in part to the fact that his influence and power would be diluted since he would not have a formal role. Months passed and various proposals stalled and agents maintained their stance. Suddenly games were being cancelled and the players began to raise questions about the status and the direction of negotiations.
Last week a critical meeting took place affecting the interest of the entire league and 30 player reps decided unilaterally to reject the league’s proposal. Then the NBPA disclaimed its interest, which serves as an informal decertification. In the middle of November the NBPA finally acted on the advice of the agents but it seems too little too late.
Various pockets within the union are already growing weary of Derrick Fisher and Billy Hunter and concerned over their income. Once the Midlevel players and below break from the stars the union will effectively have been broken. While that might not happen the odds say otherwise.
Make no mistake the next CBA will be tough on the players after what they have had under previous CBAs. The players will want their pound of flesh and Billy Hunter, the man who gave up and rolled back nearly all of the players’ critical terms will be the target. As Jack Nicholson’s character in ‘The Departed’ said, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” And so Billy Hunter will no doubt do and say whatever he can to avoid the guillotine but it seems doubtful that this fate can be avoided.