The Undefeated Interview: Michele Roberts
The head of the NBA players union on gender equality, diversity in the NBA … and the Knicks
Michele Roberts made sure to make a notable correction before beginning her recent commencement speech at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law.
The Cal Law graduate was introduced as general counsel for the National Basketball Players Association. Before Roberts uttered a word of esteemed guidance to the graduates in attendance, she made a strong point to state that her title was executive director of the NBPA. Considering that Roberts is the first woman to head a major sports union in North America, her correction was certainly warranted and needed.
“When I sought the job, I was obviously aware being a woman was of some significance,” Roberts told The Undefeated. “But it did not occur to me that getting the job would be received the way it has been received. It’s wonderful getting letters and emails from young women of color, or otherwise, who talk about how impressed and motivated they are about my having the job.
“And so it occurs to me, I certainly intended to be the best executive director in the history of the union, anyway. But now I better because the thought is if I’m not, then there’ll always be some silly person who says, well, she was a girl.”
Roberts sat down with The Undefeated after her commencement speech at The Hearst Greek Theatre on Cal’s campus earlier this month. She was engaging and thoughtful. She did not divulge much about the current talks with the league on the collective bargaining agreement, other than stating that the talks are still positive and she still meets regularly with NBA commissioner Adam Silver; but she did speak candidly on an array of subjects. Roberts talked in-depth about the “pathetic” state of women executives in sports; the lack of former NBA players and African-Americans as coaches, general managers and executives in the league; the need for more minority ownership; how she fell in love with the Knicks as a young girl; whether players should be able to engage in business with NBA owners and more in this exclusive video interview with The Undefeated.
This video was produced by Lois Nam.