While the NFL is battling the perception that the league doesn't take violence against women seriously enough, the NBA is breaking gender barriers. On Tuesday, the NBA players union named Michelle Roberts as its Executive Director, making the Washington, D.C. civil litigator the first women to lead the player's union in one of the four major North American sports.
Roberts won 32 of 34 votes, while two abstained. Two of the final candidates besides Roberts on the ballot were Dea Garfield, President and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council, and Dallas Mavericks CEO Terdema Ussery. However, according to what one player rep told CBS' Ken Berger, his strong ties to the league killed his candidacy. In the aftermath of Billy Hunter's tenure, when many believe he was too cordial with Commissioner Stern during collective bargaining negotiations, the union clearly sought to avoid the appearance of conflicting interests by appointing a successor with as few connections to the NBA's league office and the owners as possible.
NBPA President Cris Paul, who was also one of Roberts' strongest supporters throughout the process gave a glowing reccomendation of Roberts after the final vote.
"Today, we started out by telling the players how monumental today was," said Paul, the president of the players' association. "We've never had this amount of players here for a meeting, to give their input and feedback. After all the hours and time [put in by] our executive committee, along with an amazing search committee that helped throughout this process, it's an unbelievable feeling to have the wonderful Michele Roberts now as a part of our team."
Paul said Roberts was flush with fresh ideas.
"One particular member from our search committee … asked her a very tough question in the interviews and [vice president] Roger [Mason Jr.] almost fell out of his seat after she finished giving her answer," Paul said. "Even though she's a female, she's very relatable to a lot of our players. I think that's what really hit home for not only myself but some of these other guys as well."
Roberts also revealed that the union has already begun prepping for collective bargaining negotiations in 2017–if they chose to opt-out. However, the cantankerous NBPA Vice President Jerry Stackhouse wasn't so sure that Roberts was the right candidate and told assembled reporters that the vote was "being rammed down our throat."