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Etan Thomas

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An Open Letter to Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher

Posted: 04/24/2012 3:31 pm

Please do not do what it appears that both of you are gearing up to do. Please don't start mud slinging at each other in an ugly public display to tear down each others legacy and reputation.

Please, I don't want to see all of your personal business being hurled back and forth in a two way smear campaign.

I see it forming.

I see you two lining up squaring off at each other in this metaphorical ring. I see you two gearing up to throw Mike Tyson like hay-makers and I am begging you not to do it. Don't stoop to that level. You are both better than that.

Neither one of you are completely innocent in whatever your issue is with each other and I am sure there are aspects and facts that I do not know.

Maybe it's just a power struggle and this is the ugly side of politics that happens in the bigger society. Like when two politicians try to rip each other to shreds in the primaries.

But I don't want this to turn into disgraceful public side show.

I have respect for both of you.

Mr. Hunter:

When you took over as executive director in 1996, the union was roughly $5 to $6 million in debt.  Under your leadership, the union now has a licensing program that will distribute a total of $94 million dollars to players this year.  During your tenure, the union has not only accrued a healthy reserve, but in addition, has purchased its own office building in Harlem which continues to appreciate in value.

Derek:

Throughout the lockout you remained poised through every frustrating meeting that appeared to be a complete waste of time and headed no where you kept us all calm. You stood as a symbol of strength and courage while enduring mountains of criticism from every direction, but you remained diligent and steadfast. Standing up to David Stern and putting yourself on the line for the greater good. I have the utmost respect for you. Which is why we came to your defense in the midst of allegations and rallied around you. Taking you at your word even in the midst of accusations being launched from agents, media and other players.

I admired the way you stood up for the players reputations, dignity, character responsibility, and level of importance as representatives on the opposing side of the negotiating table were attacking the character and minimizing the significance of the players to the success of the league.

I remember you telling me to not take their words so personal, but that it was simply a negotiation and as in all negotiations in the history of negotiations, this too will eventually come to an end.

I asked both of you to be in my fatherhood book because I have tremendous respect for both of you.

That's why I kept bugging you, Mr. Hunter to write your opinion on how athletes were stereotyped in the media because I wanted to include your voice.

That's why Derek, I jumped through hoops with your manager to make your essay acceptable to her because I wanted as much of your story that she would allow in the book. What you went through in Utah with your daughter Tatum is a story that deserves praise.

When the canvas of players are painted with a broad brush of negativity and false accusations of constant drowning in irresponsibility and appalling, disgraceful, behaviors when it comes to fatherhood, you are one of the character witnesses who negate those claims.

I have respect for both of you, but this entire situation is embarrassing to the union and shouldn't have come to this.

There were things about the way the lockout ended that I wasn't happy about, but I understood the level of sacrifices that had to be made in order to save the season and although personally I had a different opinion, I respected both of your decisions as well as the majority of the board because we are a unit. We don't act as one but rather as a whole. We don't bypass each other, we do things democratically. It's not a dictatorship no matter what the title is in front of your name. And when one of us moves in a way that contradicts that, problems will arise as they have now. It's not a case of wanting to "protect the NBPA management and their own best interests instead of protecting the players we were elected to serve." Things simply have to make sense.

Especially coming off of how much money the union has spent on legal fees (no offense Jeffrey Kessler) and everything else associated with the lockout. None of that stuff came cheap.

How could we justify hiring an outside firm to perform an audit when we have annual audits performed every year? The results of those audits are shared with the executive committee and player representatives at its annual meetings, and at that time any player may request an independent review of the union's business practices and finances. Derek, you know this. If any questions arise and we need any further investigation we deal with it at that time. We have thoroughly reviewed the most recent audit and are satisfied with its findings. There have been no red flags raised by anyone.

NBPA conducted two business reviews following the negotiation of the 1999 and 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreements and the union will conduct another business review in a timely manner.

There is a system in place, and again, how can we justify disrupting this system without and specific accusations, any proof, or reason for suspicion of any wrongdoing? That would be irresponsible of us.

The board asked you to explain yourself. Tell us if you suspected that Mr. Hunter had utilized player union funds without executive committee approval, and you offered no such evidence or reason for suspicion.

You know you cannot side step the entire board and start a private investigation with an outside firm without the approval of even one person on the board. We move as a unit, not as individuals. That system is put in place so that no one person can carry out a private agenda.

It looks like it was just a power play which has backfired and now the situation between the two of you appears to be beyond fixable. If you would've presented a reason for suspicion, maybe you could have convinced the majority of the executive committee to support you, but without proof, you had nothing. So, when it came to vote, which is the way we make decisions, you lost 0-8.

I wish you two could have gone into a room, aired out whatever it is that you two needed to air out and moved on. But that didn't happen, and honestly in that, I think both of you are at fault. I don't know all of the details of your issues with each other, and really, I don't want to know. It's not my business. But as you know Derek, there are rules to every game, in every organization, and when you break those rules, there are consequences. And as a result of your actions the board has voted unanimously and I would implore you to simply bow out gracefully.

We wanted to handle this internally, but you insisted on making it public. I don't want this to go down the road it appears to be going down. Both of you are better than that. We have been through too much together. Right now both you and Mr. Hunter appear to be lining your artillery. Forming your troops, and waiting for the right time to begin firing away at each other, and it's not necessary. I don't want to see an ugly public display. And airing of all of your dirty laundry. The media will eat it up, they love controversy. This will sell them papers, get them hits on their articles, add followers to their Twitter accounts, and benefit them. This will be the talk of the town. And when your names and reputations are left in shambles they will move on to the next story. And it will be a disgrace to both of you because it will be your names that are drug through the mud by each other. Both of you are better than that.

 
 
 

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