Michele Roberts Rumors
What ultimately caused you to say ‘It’s time to go’? Michele Roberts: Fulfilling a promise I made 25 years ago that said, ‘Michele, if you’re 65 and God says you don’t need a walker, and you’re not dying of cancer, and you have your health, do not die behind a desk. Get up, get out and do something that’s principally initiated by what you want to do. What you want to do, not how much you’re being paid to do.’ I kind of didn’t think that would happen, but it did, and so, yeah, why wouldn’t I?
Looking back at your career with the NBPA, what are you most proud of, and what was the most challenging thing? Michele Roberts: There’s no one thing. But [Phoenix Suns guard and former NBPA president] Chris [Paul] says this, and I think I agree that it’s certainly among the things on the list, was getting health care for life for former NBA players. I think that’s just amazing, and getting a mental wellness staff in place. It was so late but appropriate. Getting a medical, physical wellness staff in place was important. We have a transition program, because I think it’s, well, not typically known what it means to transition from being an active player to a retired player, what that means, and getting people sort of ready for that. Getting our players to take control of their intellectual property, no longer having the league managing their commercial rights.
Michele Roberts: THINK450 [the NBPA’s for-profit licensing and business development entity] is extraordinary. We’re creating a sanctuary in midtown for our players that is the state-of-the-art headquarters. Full-court basketball and weight training and also podcast and office space. It’s like a sanctuary for these guys to come to what belongs to them. Oh, it’s unbelievable. Our guys can come 24/7, 365 days a year, and this is their space. Nobody owns it. It’s theirs. They can do what they want, and nobody has access to it. I think that’s fantastic. Yeah. THINK450 revenue at January of last year was in the hundreds of millions. There’s so much that we did because of a great staff and some great player buy-in and more and more player programs. Player programming in Europe, having an international staff that is particularly concentrated on addressing the needs of international players. It’s amazing what this team was able to do for our players. That’s why I can leave.
The league and union each have the ability to opt out of the current CBA at the end of this year. Tremaglio’s intent is to operate in a way that is least disruptive to everyone involved. “There is no benefit for any of us to opt out,” she said. “There is always the opportunity for us to work together. I do think Michele has been able to build a really great relationship with the league and I cannot see that not continuing. I think Adam has been incredibly welcoming. Michele helped to set up a really great transition for me. I think I’m coming in at a time that is needed, for certain, but I also feel I am coming in at a time that we can continue the path that we have already been on. Which is the path certainly of least resistance and much more partnership in terms of what we can accomplish.
Silver and Roberts had a strong working relationship, without the fireworks of their predecessors, and the collegiality between the two sides is unmatched in any of the other major sports. Tremaglio seems uninterested in disrupting that. After she was named the incoming executive director she went on a listening tour of the league’s agents, joined in on team NBPA meetings, and met with her future staff. But one of her first dinners was with Silver. “Tamika and I have had several productive conversations since she took over as executive director,” Silver said. “She is highly engaged and passionate about her role and well-versed in the business of the league given her prior experience as an adviser and consultant to the PA. I am looking forward to working closely with her to build on our strong partnership with the players.”
Roberts said the union would share lawmakers’ concerns with affected players, but several agents representing those with Chinese shoe deals told ESPN the union never alerted them to the request from Washington. Asked about that discrepancy, a union spokesman insisted the information had been passed along. “The National Basketball Players Association has previously had an impressive track record of using their voice for social change, and I would like to see them do more to raise awareness about the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang and to help their members understand the risks of partnering with companies that promote products made with forced labor,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, told ESPN. “These sponsorship deals need to end.”