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. James Harden and Dwight Howard show Mavericks what they’re missing in Rockets’ Game 1 win

    Apr 19, 2015, 12:45 AM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets - Game One Getty Images

    Houston outscores Dallas by 14 in 10 minutes with Howard and Harden, get outscored by four otherwise in 118-108 win

  2. Dwyane Wade says he won’t opt out of current deal to become a free agent this summer

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Dwyane Wade AP

    Wade has the ability to hit free agency, but is choosing to stay in Miami for at least one more season.

  3. Bradley Beal waves goodbye to Kyle Lowry after Lowry fouls out of Game 1 (VIDEO)

    Apr 18, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Bradley Beal AP

    The basketball was ugly, but this still may be a very competitive series.

  4. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri on Wizards’ Paul Pierce: “We don’t give a sh-t about ‘It'”

    Apr 18, 2015, 1:18 PM EDT

    Masai Ujiri AP

    Ujiri cusses at a playoff pep rally for the second straight year.

  5. PBT First Round Playoff Previews: Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs

    Apr 18, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs Getty Images

    How do you feel about a lot of hack-a-Jordan for six or seven games?

  6. Why the 2015 NBA playoffs feel wide open – but probably shouldn’t

    Apr 18, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs Getty Images

    With most 2014 conference-finalists eliminated, Warriors are clear favorite

  7. PBT Extra: Houston, Dallas simply do not like each other

    Apr 18, 2015, 12:30 AM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets Getty Images

    Their rivalry goes back until the Dwight Howard free agent recruitment. If not earlier.

  8. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban: ‘There’s no more predictable team than the Rockets’

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT

    TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2014 - Day 1 Getty Images

    Cuban also says of Houston: “that’s not a very good team over there.”

  9. PBT staff playoff predictions: Lots of Golden State love from us

    Apr 17, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    Draymond Green, LeBron James AP

    Three PBT writers pick the Warrior to beat the Cavaliers in the Finals.

Featured video

Can Boston put a scare in Cleveland?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Durant (5212)
  2. C. Parsons (5084)
  3. D. Rose (4992)
  4. P. George (4748)
  5. L. James (4656)
  1. M. Conley (4577)
  2. R. Westbrook (4275)
  3. S. Curry (4253)
  4. K. Bryant (4252)
  5. D. Howard (4117)