Fisher in denial over labor rift
Nov 1, 2011 at 1:00a ET
Here are two words you will not find in Derek Fisher’s 515-word letter addressed to his fellow NBA union members: Billy Hunter.
What you will find in the letter is a very weak attempt by Fisher, the player president, to deny my report that Hunter, the union’s executive director, and at least one member of the union’s executive committee confronted Fisher about their belief that Fisher’s push for a 50-50 basketball-related-income split with NBA ownership was part of a deal Fisher had privately cut with David Stern and/or Adam Silver to deliver the union at 50-50.
“Usually I wouldn't even dignify absurd media reports with a comment,” Fisher wrote in an email sent to players Monday evening. “But before these reports go any further, let me say on the record to each of you, my loyalty has and always will be with the players. Anyone that questions that or doubts that does not know me, my history, and what I stand for. And quite frankly, how dare anyone call that into question. The Players Association is united and any reports to the contrary are false. There have been no side agreements, no side negotiations or anything close. We are united in serving you and presenting the best options and getting everyone back to work.
“The attempt by ‘sources’ to divide us will be unsuccessful,” Fisher continued in the letter. “We will continue to work every day to do right by you, the businesses that depend on our league and our fans.”
Here’s how I interpret that passage: “Billy Hunter doesn’t know me. And how dare he question my loyalty to the union?”
It’s not remotely a secret in NBA circles that Fisher had been pushing behind the scenes for a 50-50 split on BRI and that Hunter is convinced the union should not accept less than 52-48. It’s also not a secret that Fisher’s superstar Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant had joined the fight for 50-50.
From Fisher’s leaked letter to Sports Illustrated to his unscripted “Let us play” Twitter campaign to his support of 50-50 to his insistence on taking direction from his overmatched publicist, Jamie Wior, it’s been clear that Fisher and Hunter have not been on the same page throughout the lockout.
It was just a matter of time before Hunter and the executive committee confronted their freelancing president. According to my source, the confrontation occurred Friday morning in New York before the last negotiating session.
In an interview with Sports Business Daily on Sunday evening, Hunter claimed: “My relationship with Derek is very good. There was no confrontation.”
But when asked whether Fisher had met privately with Stern and Silver, Hunter’s response to Sports Business Daily was enlightening.
“I have no idea,” Hunter said. “If he met with them without me knowing, how would I know?”
How dare anyone call into question Fisher’s loyalty to the union?
In my opinion, Hunter simply said what he had to say. Having a good relationship with Derek Fisher does not necessarily mean Fisher and Hunter are in agreement on lockout strategy. And “no confrontation” doesn’t necessarily mean Hunter and a member of the executive committee did not question Fisher about his dealings with Stern and Silver and spend time Friday morning persuading Fisher to commit to a 52-48 BRI split.
I stand by the accuracy, integrity, sourcing and truthfulness of all the stories I’ve written about Derek Fisher during this NBA lockout. If you read the entire transcript of his 515-word letter, it reveals a basketball player who thinks he can moonlight as the leader of a labor movement. Fisher — not Billy Hunter, an experienced lawyer and negotiator with an impressive resume — is the players’ front man on a $3 billion labor deal.
It’s lunacy. It’s ripe for corruption and chaos. Fisher’s consigliere is his publicist.
She called me Monday afternoon looking to query me about my opinion on Fisher and the NBA lockout. I politely informed her that my opinions are easily accessed here at FOXSports.com and that I’d love to speak with Fisher.
“You don’t want to talk to me?” she asked at some point.
“You are not the president of the NBA Players Association,” I responded.
Let me break this down one last time for Derek Fisher: 1. Fisher needs to fall back behind Hunter and let an experienced lawyer/negotiator battle David Stern; 2. Wior needs to spend her days building a relationship with the producers of “Dancing With the Stars,” so that her client’s transition from athlete to entertainer is a smooth one.
Now, if David Stern is Fisher’s 401(k) plan, I suggest the Lakers point guard continue his behind-the-scenes pursuit of a 50-50 BRI split.