Michelle Roberts came in as the executive director of the National Basketball Players’ Association (the players’ union) at a tough time. There had been a long and divisive lockout that the players felt they lost, former director Billy Hunter was removed from office under a cloud of controversy (with nepotism as a crucial part of it), he sued the organization, and all the while a new labor negotiation was looming in the future.
Six years later, Roberts heads stable organization — part of a more financially stable league — and now she is thinking about what’s next. Or, really who is next.
Roberts plans to step down when her contract is up in 2022, and the NBPA announced Friday it is beginning the search for her successor now.
“For the past six years, I have greatly enjoyed and continue to enjoy leading the NBPA and am proud of all we have been able to accomplish,” Roberts said in a statement. “When I agreed to a second contract as Executive Director, I made clear that I would not be seeking a third. The Executive Committee and I are committed to making certain my successor is thoroughly prepared to assume the position upon my departure from the NBPA and continue its sustained path for growth.”
“As with any organization, a strong succession plan is critical to continuing our success,” said Chris Paul, President of the NBPA, in the same statement. “Building on lessons from previous transitions, we are grateful for Michele’s leadership in facilitating the Union’s next chapter, at a time when the Union is strong and unified before the next round of CBA negotiations.”
Whoever gets the job will take over just as the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires. The union’s leaders want whoever is next to be well versed in that deal and league dynamics before that time comes. Hence the early move to make a hire.
Roberts, who had worked as an attorney for four decades before taking this job, was able to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with Commissioner Adam Silver and the owners without the public (and private) animosity that had built up between Hunter and David Stern. With Roberts, the NBPA has been run like a business.
Now the union will not be rushed in finding who is next to lead the organization.
“Our goal is to continue the vision of creating business opportunities for, and the protection of the rights of, NBA players,” said Andre Iguodala, the NBPA’s First Vice President, “and we know it will take some time to find a leader with the same integrity and commitment to our players as Michele has shown over these past few years.”