Prominent NBA Agent Jeff Schwartz Blasts Players Union for Lack of Leadership

by March 14, 2014

The NBAPA’s search for an executive director is taking an eternity, and the mysterious process has understandably frustrated players and their agents. Jeff Schwartz – the president of Excel Sports Management, who’s NBA clientele includes Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Tyson Chandler and Kemba Walker – loudly questioned the union’s tactics. Per ESPN:

As a longtime and ardent supporter of the National Basketball Players Association, I am deeply troubled by the clandestine process to date in the search for the union’s next executive director.

This is a critical hire for the players, who have been impacted so negatively by the most recent collective bargaining agreement. Salaries are down leaguewide, contracts are shorter and include less guaranteed money than they once did, and free-agent movement has been curtailed significantly at a time that NBA franchises are reaching record valuations. Leadership from the union’s next executive director is essential to the ability of current and future generations of NBA players to restore many of the critical benefits that were lost in the last round of negotiations. But here we are again witnessing a search marked by the sort of troubling secrecy that has been synonymous with the NBPA for years.

One of the most frequent complaints voiced by players and agents against the previous regime was the union’s obsession with secretive practices and compartmentalization. The expectation moving forward was that the NBPA would start to insist on transparency in everyday business operations and in the search for its next leader. The NBPA, however, has unbelievably yielded again to opaque methods in choosing the next union leader. This approach can no longer be tolerated.

The only way to repair the damage that has already been done, in my view, is to bring an immediate stop to the current process and then start the executive-director search over from scratch with a much broader approach.

Transparency in NBPA matters is essential for the healthy functioning of the union and for restoring the confidence and trust of players, agents and the public. Aside from a short meeting at All-Star Weekend in New Orleans — which only a small percentage of players attended — information on the search process has been withheld from anyone beyond the union’s nine-player executive committee and a handful of NBPA staffers. No one else has been provided information about who was considered for the position, what qualifications were sought from the candidates, and how those qualifications were valued. Aside from the executive committee, furthermore, no one else has been afforded the opportunity to meet with and/or screen any of the purported candidates.

Despite the fact that it was widely reported in the media during All-Star Weekend that there are two finalists for the position, their identities have yet to be publicly disclosed. I’ve also spoken personally with a number of qualified candidates who either dropped out of the search due to the cumbersome process or say they were ruled out of the search without explanation. This is far too important a decision to be made via such an uneven process.