by James Donaldson
About a week ago, the NBRPA had its Annual Summer Summit in Las Vegas, in where a board meeting was held, and several entrepreneurial, marketing opportunities, business opportunities and panel discussion were also held. The event took place on July 10 – July 12, 2018.
I for one was not in attendance due to a “confluence of events”.
My health took top priority, as I was scheduled to undergo a Subclavian Steal Syndrome bypass procedure, which is a follow-up procedure to the major open heart surgery I had in January 2015. It was scheduled for quite a while.
I submitted to the Board of Directors, a “request for a medical leave of absence” on July 1, and asked for it to be implemented immediately. It was asking for a three-month medical leave from all board activities, as in concurrence with my doctor’s recommendations, I am to scale back quite a few of my activities.
The “request for a medical leave of absence” went totally unrecognized and ignored by the Board of Directors and their leadership.
Instead, the Board of Directors was trying to convene a “special” Board of Directors conference call in which to address several allegations/accusations that have been made against me by several of the current board members. Even though this was a complete violation of the bylaws (our bylaws state that I get a reasonable notice of time before any “special” called board meeting, and also that I get an opportunity to address the full board…. neither of those things happened), the board elected to hold the “special” meeting anyway, in which it was voted on whether to retain my services on the Board of Directors or to forfeit/terminate them. Apparently, it was voted on to forfeit/terminate me as a board of director. I’ve never been notified as to the reasons why, and other than a voicemail message from board chair, Spencer Haywood, I have not heard from any of the Board of Directors, especially the leadership.
I was recovering from my heart surgery during the time all of this was taking place, so of course, I wanted to take the time to recover sufficiently enough to address what took place during the Las Vegas Summit.
I heard, during the summit, that my name was disparaged, and I was accused of disrespecting founders Archie Clark and Dave Cowens. Still, no explanation is been given to me. I also heard that the very serious topic of “mental health” of which I am very involved with and am creating my “next chapter of life” pertaining to this, was made light of, and even suggested that I had “mental health issues” myself. That is the furthest thing from the truth, and if anybody is read my article that was published in The Athletic “Read James’ Article on Mental” Health in May 2018, you will see that this is a very serious topic, of which I describe my own personal experiences of dealing with a lot of “life circumstances” that can happen to you each and every one of us at any point in our lives. I made my story public so that I can help others who are going through a similar journey. Especially our young students, student-athletes and former athletes as well. I am creating a whole nonprofit foundation to provide me the platform in which I will be speaking on the topic quite often around the country, writing books and articles, and being a voice and advocate for mental health. Anybody who makes fun of these kinds of serious situations, is really themselves, immature, uninformed, showing their true character, ignorant and very much lacking in compassion and understanding for something that is essentially an epidemic in our nation.
The reason for this letter today is not only to address what took place in Las Vegas recently but to call in the question, our current leadership amongst the Board of Directors and at the upper levels of the NBRPA.
Being a board member myself for the past seven years, and very involved with virtually every committee, and at what time being an assistant secretary with a fellow board member, Steve Hayes, I know the persons and characters that make up this board very well.
Many of them were put in place by our former executive director, Arnie Fielkow, in order for him to “shift the balance of power” on the board into a favorable position for himself. You members that make up the Association, need to ask each and every one of the board members, what is it they “directly or indirectly” benefited personally or professionally, from the NBRPA? Ask them how much money has been funneled directly to their charities, foundations and/or business opportunities that benefit themselves? Asked them, how many of them get opportunities from the NBRPA that never trickle down to the members? As I mention in every letter that I write towards our membership, “this is your Association, and you need to show an interest in it and demand accountability from the folks that you elect to the board of director positions”.
Of course, I’m not accepting and don’t agree with of the “process” that took place in Las Vegas to “remove me from the board”. I’ve written an email letter to the board over the last few months asking the question, rhetorically, “Why Even Have a Board?”, which I will share with you in my next letter.
This board does not function like any board I’ve ever been on throughout all my years of working in the corporate world. It does not abide by its own bylaws, policies or procedures. It makes up its rules as it goes along, knowing that it can just “push things through” regardless of what opposing board members say, or what the members say. How can it be, that our board chair, Spencer Haywood, can take it upon himself, to negotiate and sign off on the employment agreement for our new CEO/Pres., Scott Rochelle, without full board involvement? How can it be, that board vice chair, Dwight Davis, can take it upon himself, to negotiate the “separation agreement” with former CEO/Pres. Arnie Fielkow, without full board involvement and participation? These things are so blatantly against the rules, and the board members forget that each of us has a certain degree of “liability” even with our “directors and officers” liability insurance coverage.
I am consulting with one of the top attorney firms in the country right now, who will be investigating all of these claims very soon.
The problem with this board is that those that make up the “inner circle”/executive committee, are folks that are not used to being stood up to, or told that they are not correct, and this is the correct way to do things. They automatically take the stance of “if you are not with us, you are against us”. Now that I find myself in a “minority position” on the board, it’s relatively easy for the board to “railroad” things through without much opposition or resistance. All I can do is “make my one little vote count” state it for the record, and be okay with that.
When it comes down to it, the question is…. Do you as an NBRPA member know who is representing you on the board level? Do you know if they are qualified or not? Do you know if they are competent or not? Or are you just involved in a “popularity contest” to put several “big names” on the board because it “looks good”? I’ve worked side-by-side with these board members for several years, and have gotten to see all of them in action, up close and in person. I have not been impressed with the vast majority of them.
My working career after my basketball career involved running my own business as the CEO/Pres. for nearly 30 years, grossing over $1 million per year annually with a staff of 25 employees. I’ve also served on dozens of boards and committees throughout those years, and so I know how good and competent boards and committees are supposed to run, and how to stick to the bylaws that are in place, and to treat each other respectfully.
I am purposefully calling out our board members because this is really the only way that you can “get their attention” otherwise it will just be “swept under the rug” and it will never even come out of a board meeting or be noted in the minutes.
Let’s take a look at our board and leadership of the NBRPA: (these are my own personal assessments, and I will give them a 1 – 5 rating, with 5 being excellent.)
Board Chair: Spencer Haywood. #2
Spencer will readily admit that he is “in over his head”, not knowledgeable of the board bylaws or policies and procedures. Not a “decision-maker” and easily pushed around and influenced. Reluctant to step up in the first place, and now just goes whichever the “political” winds blow him.
Vice Board Chair: Dwight Davis #2
I still haven’t totally figured out what Dwight’s “agenda” is for being on the board. I was personally recruiting him several years ago to become a board member, got to know him well, consider him a friend and even spent the night as a guest at his home and “broke bread together”. Once he got on the board, things changed. He’s definitely “not down for the members”, Dwight, more than most, should be the most empathetic/sympathetic amongst us board members, considering what he went through himself and reaching “rock-bottom” before being able to right himself again. He gives a lot of credit to the NBRPA for getting him back on his feet again. Had aligned himself so closely with our former CEO/Pres. Arnie Fielkow, that he was virtually indistinguishable from him. He became Arnie’s voice, and persona when Arnie was not there, or any time Arnie asked him to do so. Kind of, Arnie’s “mini-me”. Still carrying on the legacy of Arnie Fielkow.
Secretary: Nancy Lieberman #1
I get a real “kick” out of watching Nancy operate. On one hand, she wants to come across as this God-fearing Christian and she portrays herself as “something really special in his eyes” (aren’t we all?), and then, on the other hand, she is very mean-spirited, hateful, and will “spring in action” with the slightest provocation to show her true character. She signs off on all her email signatures with “Blessings”….. (Be careful of that!)
Nancy was handpicked by former CEO/Pres., Arnie Fielkow, basically in a “political move” to ensure that Arnie had the votes on the board to move things along just as he wanted to. She was also put there to represent the WNBA portion of our membership. I’ve yet to meet a WNBA player in our membership that has any respect for her or admiration for her at all. Again, she’s one of those who is carrying on the legacy of Arnie Fielkow, and that’s not a good thing. During board meetings, she is very volatile, combative, negative and argumentative. Not quite the qualities that we ought to be looking for in our leaders. Not down for the members.
Treasurer: Casey Shaw #3
Casey has been a “nonentity” for most of his time on the board. Due to his basketball coaching career, which is understandable, he misses quite a few of the board conference calls and tends to engage more at the “executive committee” level than at the board level. A nice guy and a decent guy, but I don’t think he fully understands some of the “trials and tribulations and challenges” of former NBA players who are trying desperately to make that transition into “real in everyday life”. A “fence sitter” who doesn’t have any firm convictions one where the other.
Board Member: David Naves #3
David brings good board experience and the most “real-life” work experience to the board. He lets it be known though, that his overall approach is ensuring that the NBRPA continues to have a place for the Harlem Globetrotters. So David is been a good voice and advocate for the Globetrotters, even though, there is very little that we can do for them as members, other than some of the very basic general membership benefits we offer.
Board Member: Jerome “JYD” Williams #4
Jerome is one of our new board members, and he is working hard to create business and revenue-generating opportunities for our members. He does do the right thing by running all the opportunities by the board to get our “buy-in” and all of us are cognizant of any potential “conflicts of interest” which we take the time to study and investigate thoroughly.
Board Member: Johnny Davis #4
Johnny has been a welcome presence on the board so far. He is mature, professional, levelheaded, thoughtful, and really wants to understand the “big picture” and gather as much information as he can before making difficult decisions. I know that in my recent situation of being “supposedly voted off the board”, that the new board members, in particular, were not given adequate information to make a well-informed decision. That’s why I was supposed to be allowed an opportunity to address the full board and answer any questions any board member had.
Board Member: Sam Perkins #5
Sam is another new board member, who is “finding his way” and trying to understand some of the historical contexts that gets us to this point. I’ve always found Sam to be fair, understanding, thoughtful and compassionate. I have a lot of confidence in Sam that he will always do the right thing, “especially in regards to the members”
Board Member: Rick Barry #3
Still trying to fully understand what Rick’s “overall agenda” is, even though I’ve served with him for at least two years on the board. He typically has aligned himself with the Arnie Fielkow’s “legacy group”, so that’s where he typically ends up. Tends to bring opportunities to the board which is “multilevel/networking” opportunities, which obviously, is going to benefit him in some way or fashion. The board has taken a look at some of these opportunities, and I don’t believe has ever moved forward on any of them. That’s a good thing.
Board Member: Eldridge Recasner: #5
Eldridge is been “down for the members” since the first day he joined the board. He’s vocal, animated, and works very hard to get his point across. There have been many occasions, where the board did not listen to the information he was bringing to us, specifically in regards to Arnie Fielkow and Arnie’s interest in moving our national office to New Orleans, in which he offered Eldridge a job in the office in New Orleans since New Orleans is Eldridge’s hometown. Eldridge, to his credit, has too much integrity to fall for the old “okey-doke”, and that says a lot about his character. Of all the board members I forward with, Eldridge has taken it upon himself to do the research, and dig up the information on anything pertaining to our CEO/Pres., or board involvement, to make sure that he has his facts together to make his presentation.
Board Liaison: Major Jones #3
Major had been a “voice of reason” and a “settling” voice on the board since the board voted to allow him to represent the chapter presidents in a “liaison” position. He is a “nonvoting” participant in our board meetings, and he used to be a little bit more vocal than he has been recently, and we need to hear his voice again. For some reason, he “got quiet” during these tumultuous months and looking for a new CEO, settling down the board again and providing guidance.
Board Facilitator: Darren McFadden
Darren has been hired by the NBRPA to provide guidance and governance issues, and overall clarity and understanding of the bylaws, policies, and procedures that are in place for the NBRPA. He does not provide good strong leadership in the capacity that he is supposed to be serving, as he has a tendency to go along with the strong pressure that is exerted on him from our dysfunctional board leadership. For someone being paid $3000 a month, we should expect more.
Founder: Dave Cowens #2
Dave got much more involved upon Arnie’s request. Arnie fed the egos of several of our board members in founders, by getting them involved with special little committees, tasks or giving them specific assignments.
In Dave’s case, Dave was allowed to chair the search committee for the new CEO/president of the NBRPA. Dave already had his mind made up as chair, of how things were going to go, no matter what precedent had been set in the past, or whether board members such as myself, who is “more than well-qualified” to be considered for the position, should become an automatic finalist as has been done in the past. Dave took exception to the letters written by myself and Len Elmore to encourage him as search committee chair to consider me as one of the final candidates.
I was begrudgingly given an opportunity to interview for the CEO/Pres. position of the NBRPA, and was notified of my “video conference interview” only two hours before it was set to take place. Thus, the reason I did not appear in a “suit and tie” as I was in Seattle Washington, and the search committee/search firm arrange for all of the other candidates to fly to Chicago for a face-to-face interview for the position. I’ve been accused of “disrespecting” Dave Cowens and Archie Clark (another founder), but other than this slight “hiccup” I cannot perceive what in the world they are considering “disrespected”. I am always respectful and professional and everything I do.
Even though Dave Cowens is not an elected board of director by the members, he has exerted his personality into the overall leadership position with the Board of Directors. We respect them as a founder, but his role should be limited to just that, a founder, and not a detailed involved member of the Board of Directors.
New CEO/Pres.: Scott Rochelle
Scott has been internal counsel for the seven years he worked alongside Arnie Fielkow. Basically “rubberstamping” everything that Arnie wanted to get done and doing a lot of Arnie’s “dirty work” and witnessing everything that went on throughout Arnie’s administration.
The NBA has let me know that Scott is “their choice” to be the CEO/Pres. of the NBRPA, and I was specifically pulled aside, and told that “that’s the way it’s going to be, for me to be okay with it and go along with it”. When the “fix is in” there’s really little that anybody else can do to make a difference. The NBA is looking out for their own interests since they fund the NBRPA, and with our strict GLA (General Licensing Agreement) we are under directives from the NBA of what we can and cannot do as an association. Thus the reason for no “forward movement or significant growth” that I have seen during my seven years as a board member. This is how the NBA controls the NBRPA and all of the former players as well.
So there you have it, these are the folks who make up your Board of Directors and leadership of the NBRPA.
Why do I take the time to write this letter? Why do I even care?
Besides having a name, character and personality which I have carefully nurtured and protected along the way, to be sure that it is taken respectfully and sincerely and every avenue of life that I work in, I also take it very seriously that I was elected by the members of the NBRPA to serve them as a Board of Directors.
My ongoing theme each time I’ve run for election, has been “transparency”, “easily accessible information” and “communication” between the board leadership and the members of the NBRPA. That has yet to happen as the board leadership capitalizes on the “apathy and involvement and uninformed” membership base that it supposedly serves. The fewer questions the membership asks, the better for the board leadership in the NBRPA. That’s what they count on to keep things “covered up behind a veil of secrecy”, and so far, it works pretty well. It takes a member like myself, and several others who I worked very closely with, to continue bringing to light some of the responsibilities and obligations that the Board of Directors and the leadership of the NBRPA have as part of their duties back to the general membership.
What I hope to accomplish with this letter?
At this point, I really could care less what happens with the NBRPA. I would love to continue serving as a board of director for the members, but it’s been made painfully obvious that I am not “welcomed” to do so, at least by the current board leadership and others.
I want to bring light to other entities that matter (NBA and NBPA) of how the NBRPA has been so poorly run and manage for so many years. It’s no secret that we have been very “dysfunctional”, but I don’t think anyone is really taking the time to personally express their opinions, based on actual facts and experience of being a recent board member.
In my seven years of being a board member, I have written perhaps 15 – 20 letters directly to the Board of Directors addressing various topics from time to time. I will be sharing those letters with all concerned, so that you can see that I’ve been a board member who has always been very active, thoughtful, proactive, “down for the members” and in communication at all times with the Board of Directors who I served with. Whether it was the old board leadership of Otis Birdsong, George Tinsley, and Bob Elliott, or this current board leadership of Spencer Haywood, Dwight Davis, and Nancy Lieberman, I’ve been through it all and I’ve seen it all, and nothing is any different and we are just as “dysfunctional” as ever.
I invite anyone who wants to contact me in regards to the content of this letter or any of my next letters, to reach out to me directly and I’ll be happy to have a conversation with you.
Have a wonderful day, and peace be to you.