NEW YORK (AP) -Michele Roberts has the team she wants in place at the NBA Players Association.
On Monday, she accompanied some of them to deliver holiday gifts at a couple of sites in Harlem. In two years, the job might be much tougher: taking on the NBA in the next round of collective bargaining.
The union will be ready, she says.
“When I walk into any conference room with my team, I’m not going to have any reason to think that I’m in any way undermanned or in any way does the NBA have any advantage,” Roberts said during a phone interview.
The executive director was joined by two of the union’s new members of the senior management team. Walter Palmer is the director of international relations and marketing, and Domonique Foxworth is the chief operating officer.
They join previous appointees Gary Kohlman (general counsel), Roger Mason, Jr. (director of player relations), Ron Klempner (senior counsel for collective bargaining) and Chrysa Chin (executive vice president of strategy and development.)
Foxworth was a candidate to succeed Billy Hunter before the job ultimately went to Roberts. The former cornerback and president of the NFL Players Association was frequently recommended to her for a role in part because of his experience in collective bargaining.
Foxworth, currently completing his Masters of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, may need that experience in 2017 if either the players or league exercises its right to opt out of the current CBA.
“I know there are some things that will translate, and there are some things I’ll pick up immediately since they are just like football,” Foxworth said.
After two years in the NBA, Palmer spent another decade playing internationally. He co-founded the first union for professional basketball players in Germany and has worked with unions representing a variety of sports around the world.
Roberts then hired him, feeling that the NBPA wasn’t active enough overseas.
“It’s clear that the has been working to develop revenues and relationships with FIBA, with the IOC, with all these things overseas, but if you ask the question where is the players counterpart internationally in basketball, and I would argue in some other sports as well, there is not really an adequate player counterpart or partner,” Palmer said.
“Frankly, many of our international players here in the NBA go back and forth. They’re playing for their international teams,” Palmer added. “They’re playing under conditions that they don’t really have a voice in and that’s something that we really want to try to develop.”
Roberts, the Washington trial lawyer who became the first woman to lead a North American pro sports union, believes the current union team is much stronger than the one representing players during the 2011 lockout.
“I can say with absolute confidence that the team that’s going to walk in from this day forward is 1,000 percent superior to that team,” she said.