4 Things About New NBA Players Association Director Michele Roberts

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
NBAPA President Chris Paul Jayne Kamin Oncea USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Players Association voted Michele Roberts to be the organization’s next executive director Monday night.

Roberts received two-thirds of the vote from players reps and members of executive committee. She replaces Billy Hunter, who represented the NBAPA during the league’s 2011 lockout season. Hunter was voted out, unanimously, in February of 2013.

For the first time in a year and a half, there’s a new face of the NBAPA. Here are four things to know about the new executive director Roberts:

1. A historical hire

Roberts is the first woman to lead a North American sports league union. She received the recommendation of the nine-member executive committee to lead an all-male league.

Thirty two of a possible 36 votes were cast for Roberts, who finished as the clear winner over Mavericks CEO Terdema Ussery and tech industry CEO Dean Garfield. One reason why Roberts got the nod: neither Roberts nor Garfield had institutional knowledge of the NBA and limited negotiating experience.

2. Her background

Roberts is an attorney with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, dealing prominently as a civil rights litigator in Washington, D.C. Her strengths rely largely with civil criminal litigation, and looks to help a committee that has struggled with labor negotiations, corruption, and ethical issues in the past.

In the past, her firm has served as an outside counsel to the NBA, though she herself has never done legal work for the league.

3. The challenge ahead

The first and biggest challenge for Roberts will be the next round of collective bargaining talks set for 2017. She’ll be facing off against NBA commissioner Adam Silver if either the league or the NBAPA opts out of the current deal.

In 2011, the NBAPA under Hunter was defeated during collective bargaining negotiations.

4. What the players said

Clippers’ Jared Dudley and Chris Paul were among the players who spoke on behalf of Roberts as the new NBAPA executive director. Here’s what the players had to say.

“We had to get it done,” Dudley said, via ESPN. “If they didn’t do it now, it could be another year. There’s two years until we can opt out (of the CBA). LeBron, signing his two-year deal, set the tone. We know that the league is making money. They can’t hide behind that now.”

“Anytime you get 90 percent of the vote or more and full participation from the entire body, it signals that guys understand that this is a very big deal,” James Jones said. “This is a big decision and we did not want our guys to take it lightly. To do as we’ve done in the past, which is rubber stamp a process. ”

“We want players to challenge everything to ensure a proper dialogue,” Roger Mason Jr. said. “We don’t want anyone to just go along with the process. So there were questions. I think there were answers that our players were comfortable with.”

“Today, we started out by telling the players how monumental today was,” said Paul, the NBAPA’s president. “We’ve never had this amount of players here for a meeting, to give their input and feedback. After all the hours and time our executive committee, along with an amazing search committee that helped throughout this process, it’s an unbelievable feeling to have the wonderful Michele Roberts now as a part of our team.”

author avatar
Sam Spiegelman
Sam Spiegelman is a native New Yorker covering sports in New Orleans. He likes Game of Thrones way too much. Tweet him @samspiegs.