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Mon, 07.28.2014

The First Black Women Leads a Major Sports Union

Michele Roberts

*On this date in 2014, The National Basketball Players Association elected the first Black woman to lead a major North American sports league union.

Michele Roberts became the NBPA’s executive director; she is a Washington, D.C., civil litigator.  Roberts, an attorney with Skadden, Arps, Slate, and Meagher & Flom, was recommended by NBPA president Chris Paul and the nine-member executive committee.  She won an appointment with 32 of 34 votes among committee members and team player representatives.  She won over the players with a strong background in litigation and an unblemished character.

She replaced the deposed Billy Hunter, whose tenure was marked with labor negotiation failures, corruption, and ethical entanglements. The players passed on Dallas Mavericks CEO Terdema Ussery, a career NBA executive with strong ties with the league office. "I liked her labor law experience," one player representative told Yahoo Sports in a text message. "That was a priority for me."

The process was littered with the NBPA's dysfunction, including a late bid by player agents to push back the vote and further study the finalists or possibly dump them altogether. Nevertheless, the vote played out on Monday in Las Vegas, and the union will start to move forward with a leader again.

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