With an original four-year agreement set to expire in September, Michele Roberts plans to seek a new contract as the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, sources tell ESPN. Roberts plans to send a formal letter of her intentions to the union’s executive committee in the near future, sources said.
Roberts had strongly considered staying in the NBPA’s executive director role for only the length of her original contract — and expressed that to the union’s senior membership — but has recently decided to pursue a longer tenure, sources said. NBPA president Chris Paul played a significant part in Roberts’ hiring in July 2014 and he has built a strong working relationship with Roberts.
The mental wellness program — the product of almost a year of discussions between the league and union that began as the sides were working out the new Collective Bargaining Agreement — will allow players to seek treatment and counseling outside of the framework of their individual teams, if they want. Existing team physicians and other resources will still be available to them, too. The new director will have authority and a significant role for players who seek his help. But it is not clear if the director will have the ability to unilaterally decide if a player dealing with a mental wellness issue should not play in a given game or games to deal with those issues, regardless of what the player’s team medical staff may think.
Dooling will report to the new Director of Mental Health and Wellness, serving as liaison between players and the program resources. “I can respond and I’m still pretty relevant,” Dooling said. “I played against most of these guys. They see a safety net in me. I’ll be providing them with support and resources. We’ll be able to respond in real time, not only doing preventative stuff, but infrastructure that will outlive all of us … in 20 years, this program will be further advanced than it is now. It will be able to help not only ballplayers but society in general. If we start taking it seriously, society will follow that. We have the capacity to scale our model. The most important thing is to get that director in place so we can grow organically.”
The Indiana Pacers, for example, hired Dr. Chris Carr as their Team Performance Psychologist in 2011. He has an office at the team’s practice facility, and frequently travels with the team on the road. “I think he’s a tremendous resource for all our guys,” Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard said Sunday. “At some level, everybody uses him for a sounding board, some deeper than others. We give our players full access. We talked about it early, and our players feel like it’s important, too. Not only do we give them the resource, but they have to use it.”
“Think of what Kevin Love said about his panic attack, and think of the pressure that it added that he couldn’t tell his teammates,” White said. “Think of the consequences of him not being able to tell his teammates. Those same consequences, you could map onto management as well, and the ownership. Ideally, and what we are seeing and continue to see, is the sort of optimal support and treatment plan for people with these conditions is that people with these conditions be afforded the opportunity to come forth with their struggles openly, and communicate them on an ongoing basis.
Emmert said that the NCAA cannot change the NBA’s so-called one-and-done rule, which prohibits players from being drafted until they are 19 or two years removed from high school. “That relationship is the NBA and players’ association to change,” he said. “But the commission is looking at what can and should be done to change that relationship. You do have significant issues around young men who want to become professional athletes. They may or may not want to go to college in order to do that and they need to have more and better options.”