NBA Union Chief Michele Roberts Making History and Waves | African-American News and Black History

adam silver, collective bargaining agreement, Her Side, michele roberts, nba commissioner, NBA Players Association, nba union, Sports -

NBA Union Chief Michele Roberts Making History and Waves

adam silver, collective bargaining agreement, Her Side, michele roberts, nba commissioner, NBA Players Association, nba union, Sports -

NBA Union Chief Michele Roberts Making History and Waves

Bloomberg Int_1The game-changing executive in sports is a Black woman named Michele Roberts, who took over the NBA players’ union last year and has already let it be understood that the power rests with her.

Called by Washingtonian magazine “The finest pure trial lawyer in Washington,” Roberts took a pay cut to take over the Players Association that was rife with corruption and inefficiency. For her to get the job, however, she had to prove her worth in an all-male profession, which is never easy.

In her presentation last summer in Las Vegas before being voted into the position by getting 32 of 34 votes, Roberts’ remarkable portfolio as a Washington, D.C. lawyer impressed. So did her knowledge of the NBA. So did her impeccable reputation of having the utmost integrity. All those elements were critical.

But it might have been her confidence, which can come off as brash to some, that clinched it for her. Her most memorable comment to the 117 players and other league personnel:

“My past is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.”

And the job was hers.

The NBA already is learning that Roberts, 58, cannot be slept on, as head of the union or as a Black woman. She’s smarter than most and equally tough—requirements for this position, especially as a woman.

“I don’t smile a lot,” she said in an interview last year.

Born and raised in the projects in the Bronx, Roberts could have had her Players Association executive director office anywhere in New York. The first female leader of a major professional sports union chose Harlem.

“I don’t live my life saying, ‘What ceiling am I going to crack tomorrow?’” Roberts said to SBnation.com. “What I have done, and what I tell my nieces to do, is not to worry about whether you’re the only one, but worry about whether you’re the best one.”

Roberts has been the best for a long time now as an attorney, and she has the momentum to do significant things for the players, who have been mired in questionable leadership and internal fighting for years. The upcoming negotiations for a new collective bargaining deal promise to be interesting and potentially contentious, as Roberts has strong views that are in conflict with the league’s position and past agreements.

For instance, the NBA and the players split revenue, which Roberts quite colorfully declared a problem.

“Why don’t we have the owners play half the games?” she said to ESPN The Magazine in the fall. “There would be no money if not for the players. Let’s call it what it is. There. Would. Be. No. Money. Thirty more owners can come in, and nothing will change. [The players] go? The game will change. So let’s stop pretending.”

On the salary cap, a league staple for years, Roberts seems to have issues, too. “I don’t know of any space other than the world of sports where there’s this notion that we will artificially deflate what someone’s able to make, just because,” she said to the publication. “It’s incredibly un-American. My DNA is offended by it.”

Want to talk increasing the age limit for prospects being drafted into the NBA? Roberts is fine with players’ ability to play college for a year and declare for the NBA Draft, which conflicts with commissioner Adam Silver’s idea of raising the minimum age to 20.   “There is no other profession that says that you’re old enough to die but not old enough to work. . . There will be no two (years of college) and done.”

She said when NBA teams claimed to have lost money last season, “I initially just started laughing, to be honest with you.”

On a personal note, her position on not wanting to have children, speaks to her need for independence. “It had a hell of an impact on my social life,” she said, “because men always wanted to have children. I made it very clear that we could play, but if you have any designs on being a dad, you’d have to cheat on me because I’m not having any kids.”

Being Black and a woman has come into play with Roberts more than once, and she owns that situation, too.

“It has happened in my professional life, fairly consistently,” she said, “that some idiot will do something inappropriate because I’m African-American or a woman. And it typically involves a power relationship, where they’ll say, ‘Do this, you’ve done something wrong, and don’t start crying on me.’ That kinda crap. And so you call it.”

Call Roberts what you like, as long as you call her in charge.


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