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NBA union leader Billy Hunter made big bucks despite labor strife

September 29, 2012|By Dan Loumena
  • Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA players' union, speaks to reporters during a failed round of labor negotiations last summer.
Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA players' union, speaks… (Lucas Jackson / Reuters )

While NBA players were locked out as their leaders tried to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement, their union's executive director, Billy Hunter, was not missing any paydays.

Hunter made $3 million in salary this last year, when the NBA played a compacted 66-game season and players missed paychecks during a lengthy lockout. It was a 25% salary increase, according to Bloomberg news service.

By comparison, DeMaurice Smith, the NFL Players Assn. executive director, made $1.38 million this last season, although the players did give him a $1-million bonus after he led negotiations that landed a new 10-year labor deal with the nation's most popular league. Michael Weiner, the leader of the MLB Players’ Assn., made $1 million.

"If I’m a rank-and-file member of this union I’ve got to ask myself -- Is Billy really worth three times the guy at MLBPA?” said Paul Swangard of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, in an email to Bloomberg.

Hunter, 69, was the only labor leader of a players' union to draw a salary during work stoppage. The salary disclosure also comes as the NBA union is under investigation for its financial and business practices, including nepotism, an issue first raised by union President Derek Fisher.

"With legitimate questions swirling about whether the NBPA has become Hunter Family Inc., Billy should be focused on clearing his name, not padding his paycheck," Swangard said.

Don Fehr, head of the NHL Players Assn., is not being paid during the hockey lockout.

"It’s both a measure of solidarity and uniformity of interest," Fehr said. "You want the players to understand you’re in the same boat they are. You don’t have interests different than they do. We think it’s important."

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