Skip to content

NBA Players union elects first female executive director in Michele Roberts

Jul 29, 2014, 1:32 AM EDT

Derek Fisher

Much like any legislation that comes out of Washington D.C., how this came to be was far from pretty.

Michele Roberts, a powerful Washington D.C. litigator, has been elected as the next executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), better known as the players union, according to multiple reports. She is the first woman to hold the position and replaces Billy Hunter, who was forced out 17 months ago amid charges of nepotism and other concerns.

Roberts works for the firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. She is not someone with NBA ties but that seemed to appeal to the players who voted (she got 32 of the 34 votes, which included 28 team representatives). One of the other finalists was Mavericks CEO Terdima Ussery, but the union moved away from someone already connected to the league. She also has a spotless reputation.

What do we know about Roberts? Not much. Here is what her law firm’s bio page says about her:

Michele Roberts is a renowned trial lawyer and a member of the firm’s Litigation Group. Her practice focuses on complex civil and white collar criminal litigation before state and federal courts and in administrative proceedings. Ms. Roberts has tried more than 100 cases to jury verdicts, representing clients in a wide variety of areas, including products liability, white collar, racketeering, securities regulation violations, Title VII issues and premises liability. She has been called the finest pure trial lawyer in Washington, D.C. by Washingtonian Magazine.

She does have experience in labor law, which is key for the union.

Her election ended a wild week for the union.

First, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, who had led the search committee to find a new executive director, stepped aside before the vote. Then on Monday, a number of player agents who felt cut out of the process had a conference call to complain and pressured their clients to try and delay any vote. Then at the meeting, former player and union rep Jerry Stackhouse showed up and tried to get the players to hold off and look at other candidates.

The day was full of the disruptions that have plagued the union for years. There is an inherent difference in opinions around the unions because what is best for the star players is often not best for the “middle class” or the guys making the league minimum. Throw in agents trying to game the system to help their clients (and therefore their pocket books) and you have a frightening amount of in-fighting. In the end, the union representatives voted for the executive committee (led by union president Chris Paul) backed.

That in-fighting is what Roberts walks into and has to clean up. She needs to get a unified front before the players head into the 2017 negotiations with the NBA on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (either side can opt out that year and it is expected one or both sides will). That is when things get serious.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Jeremey Lin considering signing for Dallas Mavericks

    Jul 4, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers

    He would have to take a paycut, but Dallas needs help at the point.

  2. Spurs reset franchise for post Tim Duncan life in one impressive week

    Jul 4, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    San Antonio Spurs v Portland Trail Blazers Getty Images

    The Spurs are going to just keep going on, being the San Antonio Spurs

  3. Report: Bismack Biyombo agrees to two-year deal with Raptors

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    DeMar DeRozan, Gerald Henderson, Bismack Biyombo AP

    Bargain for Toronto — as long as the Raptors aren’t expecting any offense.

  4. LaMarcus Aldridge has chosen to sign with Spurs

    Jul 4, 2015, 12:21 PM EDT

    Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three Getty Images

    Biggest name left in free agency will make San Antonio a powerhouse.

  5. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on DeAndre Jordan: ‘We see him as Shaq-like’

    Jul 4, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Four Getty Images

    Cuban believes Jordan can average 20 points, 20 rebounds per game.

  6. Report: Cavaliers have ‘huge interest’ in David West

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    Fits with West’s desire to play for a contender, but he’d have to take very little money to sign there.

  7. Who should Clippers get to replace DeAndre Jordan? How about Blake Griffin.

    Jul 4, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Three Getty Images

    The Clippers went small the final five minutes of Game 7 against the Spurs, and it worked.

  8. Report: Derrick Williams agrees to two-year, $10 million deal with Knicks

    Jul 4, 2015, 12:33 AM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings AP

    At this price, it’s a fair pickup for New Yor, giving hem another role player.

  9. Report: DeAndre Jordan’s relationship with Chris Paul was ‘demonstrably poor’

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT

    DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul AP

    A big reason Jordan left L.A. to sign with the Mavericks.

  10. Report: Patrick Beverley re-signs on four-year deal to remain with Rockets

    Jul 3, 2015, 7:37 PM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

    Beverley’s defense provides a perfect complement to James Harden.

  11. Reports: Corey Brewer agrees to three-year deal to stay with Rockets

    Jul 3, 2015, 6:27 PM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Six Getty Images

    He is a good fit in the Rockets’ up-tempo system.

  12. Becky Hammon to coach Spurs in summer league

    Jul 3, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT

    San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Two Getty Images

    She’s a San Antonio assistant coach

  13. Report: Gary Neal agrees to one-year, $2.1 million deal with Wizards

    Jul 3, 2015, 4:31 PM EDT

    Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves

    Key for the Wizards is this is a one-year deal, so they save their cap space for a Kevin Durant offer next summer.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. Aldridge (6260)
  2. D. Wade (4734)
  3. L. James (3640)
  4. D. Jordan (3611)
  5. W. Matthews (3548)
  1. G. Monroe (3486)
  2. K. Bryant (3310)
  3. T. Harris (3231)
  4. J. Embiid (3208)
  5. R. Rondo (3128)