The NBA Player’s Association hasn’t exactly been a politically fearsome group in recent years. The players demonstrably lost out financially in the 2011 lockout, behind their befuddled, lazy director at the time, Billy Hunter. LeBron James and others haven’t been tight-lipped about realizing that much. James, this October, said the league’s owners claiming to be losing money on their teams is a strategy that “will not fly this time.”
The new $24 billion TV deal ensures that the union is entitled to fight for more money. And new union director Michele Roberts looks determined to wage that battle. The replacement for former do-nothing Hunter, Roberts has been on the job since just July, but she’s already made a strong impression.
“She’s serious, she is impressive,” one player agent who met with Roberts told Sporting News’ Sean Deveney. “She is coming at this from an outsider’s perspective. With Billy, he accepted that the system we have is what it is, and all we can do is try to protect as much ground as possible. Michele is a clean slate, she flat-out sees some of the things we accept as wrong. She’s itching for a fight on this stuff, because she thinks we’re right.”
Now, Roberts and the union are disputing the league’s decision to suspend Charlotte Hornets forward Jeff Taylor for 24 games without pay, citing the penalty as “excessive, without precedent and a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The CBA contemplates a minimum 10 game suspension in any case involving a conviction for a violent felony, including domestic violence. In contrast, Jeff Taylor was charged with a misdemeanor that is likely to be dismissed at the end of a probationary period. … While we appreciate the sensitivity of this societal issue, the Commissioner is not entitled to rewrite the rules or otherwise ignore precedent in disciplinary matters.”
This is merely the first example of likely more intense friction between Roberts and Silver. We’re all waiting for the atomic showdown that seems inevitable when the current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2017. If Roberts continues her hard line until then, there’s a good chance we’ll see another work stoppage in the league.
— John Wilmes