Skip to content

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

Aug 17, 2014, 10:00 AM EST

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. Sixers offense from bad to worse: Tony Wroten out week with sprained knee

    Nov 28, 2014, 6:30 PM EST

    Phoenix Suns v Philadelphia 76ers Phoenix Suns v Philadelphia 76ers

    He’s the team’s leading scorer (which says a lot about the Sixers’ offense).

  2. Carmelo Anthony: Derrick Rose recruited me to Bulls

    Nov 28, 2014, 2:10 PM EST

    Derrick Rose Derrick Rose

    Melo said it came down to Bulls and Knicks

  3. NBA denies Kings’ protest

    Nov 28, 2014, 12:39 PM EST

    Ben McLemore Ben McLemore

    Grizzlies’ win upheld

  4. Russell Westbrook returns to court tonight for Thunder vs. Knicks

    Nov 28, 2014, 12:25 PM EST

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

    To reach the 49 wins it took to make the playoffs in the West last season, the Thunder need to go 45-21 the rest of the way.

  5. Mark Cuban still taking jabs at Derek Fisher

    Nov 28, 2014, 9:30 AM EST

    Derek Fisher Derek Fisher

    Mavericks own bitter about how Fisher left Dallas

  6. Rumor: Lance Stephenson was issue with Roy Hibbert, may be issue in Charlotte

    Nov 28, 2014, 8:00 AM EST

    Portland Trail Blazers v Charlotte Hornets Getty Images

    I’d take this rumor with a grain or 12 of salt, but…

  7. Craig Sager nearing TNT return after battle with leukemia

    Nov 27, 2014, 8:00 PM EST

    Nebraska v Baylor Getty Images

    Sager will receive clearance to fly in January.

  8. Kings coach calls DeMarcus Cousins NBA’s best big man

    Nov 27, 2014, 5:00 PM EST

    Michael Malone, DeMarcus Cousins Michael Malone, DeMarcus Cousins

    Michael Malone increases pressure on sometimes-combustible Cousins

  9. Hornets coach Steve Clifford: Lance Stephenson not a star

    Nov 27, 2014, 2:00 PM EST

    Clifford has benched Stephenson for consecutive fourth quarters

Featured video

Could Sixers be worst team in NBA history?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (8947)
  2. K. Durant (7421)
  3. D. Howard (7323)
  4. D. Wade (7219)
  5. R. Westbrook (5825)
  1. T. Jones (5741)
  2. B. Jennings (5558)
  3. T. Gibson (5398)
  4. R. Hibbert (5397)
  5. T. Harris (5309)