Sacramento Mayor to Head Committee Seeking NBA Union Chief

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will lead a new committee created to find the next leader of the National Basketball Association players’ union, a process that will aim to hire an executive director before next season.

The inclusion of Johnson, 48, a three-time NBA All-Star in the 1990s who was integral last year in keeping the Sacramento Kings from moving to Seattle, is the most recent twist in the union’s year-plus search for Billy Hunter’s replacement.

“Mayor Johnson is in a unique position as a former player and someone skilled in the politics of negotiations to lead this effort,” union President Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers said in a statement released yesterday by the National Basketball Players Association.

Johnson will pick the members of the committee, which will consist of five to seven people. The members will be subject to approval of the union’s executive committee.

Reilly Partners, a search firm hired by the players in September, will continue to assist in finding a replacement for Hunter, a former federal prosecutor who was fired more than a year ago after an independent audit of the union’s business practices found that he failed to manage conflicts of interest, lacked proper corporate governance and didn’t disclose that his contract wasn’t properly ratified.

Among the candidates identified by Reilly Partners are David White, the national executive director of the Screen Actors Guild, and Michele Roberts, an attorney at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher, according to people with direct knowledge of the search process who asked that they not be identified because the process is not public.

“As the league continues to reach amazing heights in global popularity, the new executive director and the team he or she puts together has a critical role to play,” Johnson said in the NBPA release. “I believe the NBPA can set the standard for player representation in all professional sports.”

Hunter’s Suit

Agent Jeff Schwartz, whose clients include Blake Griffin of the Clippers, last month in an open letter to ESPN criticized the search process. He called for the search to be restarted from scratch. Schwartz did not immediately return a voice mail yesterday seeking comment on the union’s move.

Hunter is suing the union to get the remaining $10 million on his contract.

The audit, conducted by the New York-based law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP, concluded that while Hunter’s actions might not have been illegal, they reflected poor judgment. The U.S. Attorney in Manhattan is investigating union practices.

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