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Volume 24 No. 117
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New NBPA Leader Roberts Sold Personal Story, Player-First Union In Election Process

Roberts' love for the game
played a role in her decision
Newly-elected NBPA Exec Dir Michele Roberts "sold the players on two key points: her personal story (growing up in a Bronx project) and her basic vision of a union," according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. Roberts said, "The players' visions of the union is that it belongs to them, and it should exist to promote, protect and advance their interest and not any other stakeholder or any other person. What they wanted in an executive director was someone who understood that and would not consider any deviation from that vision." Zillgitt writes Roberts is "known as an outstanding attorney and has been praised for her profound connection with juniors." But she is "no stranger to the game" and is a longtime Wizards season-ticket holder. Roberts: "If I didn't love basketball, I wouldn't give it a second thought. My love of basketball got me to first base." Zillgitt notes Roberts will relocate from DC to the NBPA's N.Y. HQ (USA TODAY, 7/30). Roberts said, "This is no longer an opportunity for someone to operate the union without regard for what is in the best interest of the union. I think that was a fundamental understanding that we had to arrive at. We did, and then from there, I think they appreciated my appreciation of their passion and commitment” (“NBA GameTime,” NBA TV, 7/29). In DC, Cindy Boren noted NBA players in selecting Roberts "followed those in the NFL who chose another skilled litigator" in DeMaurice Smith for their union's Exec Dir position. Smith said, "Michele is a tremendously skilled lawyer, a very talented trial attorney who is formidable in a very measured way" (, 7/29). 

A CLEAN SLATE: In Toronto, Doug Smith wrote of Roberts, "I certainly don’t envy her and can only hope she’s strong-willed enough to bring some semblance of unity to an organization that has in the past been fractured beyond belief." As observers have "seen historically in the NBA, the union is quite happy to erode the middle class and give up the rookies in what seems to be a fight fought for a few rather than the majority." That is "not likely to change when Roberts has to deal with the next CBA talks ... but if she can galvanize more of the players" than former Exec Dir Billy Hunter ever did, "perhaps some equanimity can get into the equation" (, 7/29).

MAKING PROGRESS: posted a debate under the header, "Is The NBA The Most Progressive League?" ESPNW's Kate Fagan wrote the NBA is "doing many things right," and is a place where players "often feel empowered to stand up for social issues." On the other side of the debate, ESPNW's Melissa Isaacson wrote not to "overlook" MLS, which has "traditionally cracked down hardest on instances of homophobia from its players and has perhaps the most recognizable face in that fight" with openly-gay Galaxy MF Robbie Rogers (, 7/29).