The investigation by the National Basketball Players Association into whether monetary gifts were provided by a sports agency to NBA draft prospect O.J. Mayo has taken an unexpected turn.
Sources are telling CNBC that the top legal counsel for the NBPA, Gary Hall, was paid to work for Bill Duffy Associates--the agency that represents Mayo that is under investigation--at least twice.
Several agents, who are looking to clean up the industry, said that they were concerned that an unbiased investigation could be conducted without Hall taking himself out of the mix for the case.
That will no longer be an issue.
"Gary Hall is going to recuse himself from any involvement in any investigations that occur regarding BDA,” union spokesman Dan Wasserman told CNBC. “In that instance, our director of security and agent administration Robert Gadson will report directly to our executive director Billy Hunter."
Hall stepping away could be a net loss for the case, since it means one less staff member to monitor these developments. Agents who spoke anonymously to CNBC said they had hoped that this case—and the union's response—would help clean up the sketchy industry.
Many have argued that the already small staff within the union's office, and its lack of subpoena power, make it virtually impossible to adequately monitor the roughly 400 agents registered with the union.
The investigation was brought about by an ESPN report earlier this month in which Louis Johnson, who was said to be a former member of Mayo’s “inner circle,” said the 20-year-old who played one year with University of Southern California accepted $30,000 in cash and gifts from event promoter Rodney Guillory.
Johnson, who provided receipts to the sports network, alleged that Guillory received the money from Bill Duffy Associates, to ensure that Mayo signed with the firm. Mayo denied the claims and BDA refuted the connection.
Hall, who worked with Hunter when Hunter was a prosecutor in northern California, first worked with the NBPA as outside counsel while working at the law firm he helped start, Nevin & Hall. In 2001, Hall moved to Syracuse to work for a firm called Blitman & King, where sources say he was paid by BDA to represent the firm in at least two cases.
Hall was hired by the union in Nov. 2005 as general counsel and he now heads up the union’s legal department, which includes Hall and two other in-house lawyers.
Hall represented the sports agency in the high profile case of former Chicago Bulls player Mario Austin, which lasted from Sept. 2003 to June 2004. When Austin fired Duffy after claiming Duffy misled him into signing with a team in Russia, it got very public. The case was eventually settled. He also worked for BDA in an arbitration case that involved a player asking a team for an injury settlement.
There are rumors circulating that O.J. Mayo is contemplating firing BDA. But Mayo's BDA agent Calvin Andrews told CNBC this afternoon that is not the case.
"There are obviously a lot of things going on right now," Andrews told CNBC. "If this is too big and the kid feels like it's really a strain on his family, we told him we would step away."
Andrews just returned from Chicago where Mayo is working out with trainer Tim Grover in preparation for the NBA Draft workouts. Sources said Mayo's mother is now involved in the agent race and was with O.J. in Chicago.
If Mayo fired BDA, he would have to inform the NBPA of his decision. He could hire a new agent as soon as 15 days later. If Mayo drops BDA, agent Andy Miller is rumored to be the leader.
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