Skip to content

Michele Roberts, new NBA players union director, is a person to be reckoned with

Aug 17, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

Michele Roberts Michele Roberts

Just a few weeks ago there were frustrated, venting-to-repoterts agents who were concerned that the person the NBA players were electing to lead their union, the person that will sit across from Adam Silver in 2017 and negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, lacked experience and vision.

I’m not seeing it that way.

Read Andrew Keh’s profile of new NBA players union executive director Michele Roberts in the New York Times and that is not the impression you get at all.

Roberts is a bad ass.

She said she was all too aware that if she was selected, she would represent several hundred male athletes in the N.B.A.; she would deal with league officials and agents who were nearly all men; she would negotiate with team owners who were almost all men; and she would stand before reporters who were predominantly men.

She did not flinch. “My past,” she told the room, “is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.”

She’s an experienced litigator with a fantastic courtroom reputation — the kind of thing that can translate over to the negotiating room.

More than that, she fills the power vacuum with a plan. The union voted out Billy Hunter as union executive director at the 2013 All-Star weekend — a year and a half ago. There were false starts in finding a replacement until the players turned the process over to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who narrowed the list down to three including Roberts. Then there were a lot of concerns (enter the agents again) that within sight of the finish like the union booted out Johnson so they could make their own decision.

The union executive committee liked Roberts. You can see why, she has a plan.

Roberts begins the job next month, and she plans to essentially upend the union, which she dismissed as “a mom-and-pop shop” under her predecessor.

“It was clearly run by Hunter without much input from other people,” she said during a long interview at her office in Washington. “It’s completely inconsistent with the way any entity, let alone any union, should be run.”

She means business. In the professional, not nepotism sense. Which will be a nice change for the NBA union.

Union president Chris Paul was among the players frustrated after the last CBA negotiation, the players felt like they gave a lot. Now the economics of the NBA have turned — as evidenced by the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers — and the players want their share. The players are not going to get percentage points of the “basketball related income” back (they will get 51 percent of that league revenue this year) but there are plenty of other ways they can make inroads.

Right now the sense is that come 2017 there will be a summer lockout but it’s not going to last into the season — everyone is making too much money. Roberts will be at the heart of how all that turns out.

And the owners best not underestimate her.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Chris Paul to attend Team USA minicamp

    Aug 1, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Chris Paul, Ray McCallum Chris Paul, Ray McCallum

    Paul is still in the running for a spot on the 2016 Olympic team.

  2. Raptors’ GM Masai Ujiri sees Bismack Biyombo as key part of roster transformation

    Aug 1, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Detroit Pistons v Charlotte Hornets Getty Images

    Biyombo has worked with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer on post moves, other parts of his game.

  3. Nets finally taking responsible path to rebuilding, don’t expect another spending spree next summer

    Aug 1, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets Deron Williams Paul Pierce Kevin Garnett Getty Images

    The Nets will be paying the price for their win-now era for a few years to come still.

  4. Report: Dwight Howard to attend Team USA mini-camp after all

    Aug 1, 2015, 1:11 AM EDT

    Dwight Howard AP

    This is the right move, whether he decides to play in Rio or not.

  5. Watch Karl-Anthony Towns highlights from Summer League

    Jul 31, 2015, 11:08 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwu3mmzjztazntu1ogzhywnkzju2otmyzgnloty5otbl1 AP

    He looks like a guy who can live up to the No. 1 pick billing.

  6. Pelicans waive Toney Douglas, still await Norris Cole decision

    Jul 31, 2015, 10:26 PM EDT

    Utah Jazz v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    Norris Cole is still looking for a bigger payday.

  7. Pacers’ Jordan Hill arrested for reckless driving, clocked at 107 mph

    Jul 31, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Hill told the police he was “in a hurry.” I guess so.

  8. Warriors trade Gerald Wallace to Philadelphia in exchange for Jason Thompson

    Jul 31, 2015, 7:01 PM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

    Neither guy is going to make a difference on the court for these teams. This was just moving some money around.

  9. Trail Blazers guarantee Allen Crabbe’s contract for next season

    Jul 31, 2015, 5:46 PM EDT

    LV Celtics v Trailblazers Getty Images

    Crabbe looked good in Las Vegas at Summer League.

  10. Report: Hedo Turkoglu wants to play anther NBA season, Kings possiblity

    Jul 31, 2015, 4:59 PM EDT

    Washington Wizards v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

    The Kings don’t really have the roster spot for him.

  11. Grizzlies’ D-League affiliate hires female assistant coach

    Jul 31, 2015, 4:11 PM EDT

    NBA.com NBA.com

    Iowa Energy add Nicki Gross to coaching staff

  12. Report: Joe Johnson “pumped” that Deron Williams bought out by Nets

    Jul 31, 2015, 12:52 PM EDT

    joe johnson nets sleeved alternates

    Johnson makes $24.9 million, but this is the last year of his contract.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (2686)
  2. B. Haywood (2024)
  3. M. Miller (1890)
  4. I. Thomas (1865)
  5. L. James (1813)
  1. N. Young (1705)
  2. J. Smith (1687)
  3. S. Napier (1616)
  4. T. Thompson (1607)
  5. G. Robinson III (1509)