NBA players' union elects attorney Michele Roberts as executive director

Willie Grace | 8/1/2014, 6 a.m. | Updated on 7/31/2014, 12:17 a.m.
The National Basketball Players Association elected Michele Roberts, a prominent Washington civil litigator, as its executive director.

The National Basketball Players Association elected Michele Roberts, a prominent Washington civil litigator, as its executive director.

Roberts, an attorney with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, is the first woman to lead a major North American sports league union.

Roberts was the recommendation of NBPA president Chris Paul and the nine-member executive committee, winning with 32 of 34 votes among committee members and team player representatives, sources said.

Roberts won over the players with a strong background as a civil criminal litigator and an unblemished character. She'll be replacing the deposed Billy Hunter, whose tenure was marked with labor negotiation failures, corruption and ethical entanglements.

The players passed on a career NBA executive with strong ties with the league office, Dallas Mavericks CEO Terdema Ussery.

"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 usual dysfunction, including a late bid by player agents to push back the vote and further study the finalists – or possibly dump them all together. 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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