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Michele Roberts Could Be The Most Powerful Person in North American Basketball

courtesy of bizjournals.com
During a sports talk show I was listening to a few weeks ago, the topic of discussion was in reference to the decline in television viewership for NCAA college basketball games so far this season.

Many listeners blamed the current NBA age limit which requires basketball players that enter the NBA draft to be 19 and a year out of high school that was implemented in 2005, this created the present system in which most high profile players simply go to college for a year and then declare for the draft. 

So it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that the NCAA, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, college basketball coaches and fans want the league’s required age limit to be increased from 19. 

Many are under the impression that the NBA can amend this rule, but only the NBA players and their union, the National Basketball Players Association are the ones that can make changes to the age limit!

In late July 2014, the NBPA elected Michele Roberts their new Executive Director in Las Vegas, obtaining 32 of 36 votes, making her the first woman to lead a major North American sports union. Roberts a career litigator with an extensive background in trial and labor law appears to be the perfect choice.

Her election makes Roberts the sole female charged with representing the financial interests of hundreds of male athletes, many being African American. 

Shortly after being chosen as the new NBPA, Executive Director, Roberts addressed the media:

“I am a bad woman, but I’m not that bad. We are going to have a team, a very strong team, what I call a team of gladiators, that’s going to help these men and women, again, go in the direction they choose to go. It’s a new day.”

“They’ve got their union back, and I’m going to make sure that they are empowered to take their union exactly where they want their union to go,” Roberts said.

It’s very apparent by electing a trial lawyer that the NBPA is preparing for another round of fighting with the NBA. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) allows either side to opt-out of the current agreement after the 2017 season.

Given the dissatisfaction most players have with the current CBA deal, especially with how free agency is currently handled and the new nine-year, $24 billion media-rights deal the NBA inked with ESPN and Turner Sports in October 2014, the NBA and NBPA are headed towards another massive fight in 2017. This new deal won’t take effect until the 2016-17 season.

What does the new TV deal mean? It means that NBA owners can’t cry broke like they did during the 2011 lockout negotiations because of the abundance of new revenue that will be flowing in from this deal.

According to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, The NBA and the NBPA have a long list of issues related to the compromised Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011 that are often referred to as B-List items that both sides agreed to revisit. With Adam Silver now the Commissioner of the NBA, increasing the age limit in the NBA is certainly his top objective!

So with that being said, who is in the better position to influence this change of increasing the NBA age limit? Certainly not the NBA and their owners! Neither is the NCAA or any college coach!

Keep in mind that the NBPA favors no age restrictions at all, but from a historical prospective, they have sold out the younger players in favor of concessions for the current players. So more than likely that will have to be the case again if the NBA wants to see the increase in age limit.

This is a subject the NBA wants to immediately address, but none of us are sure if the NBPA new leadership will go along, or simply push this idea back as part of a new CBA in 2017.

This alone gives the NBPA and Executive Director, Michele Roberts a favorable hand in any negotiations to get the age limit increased in the very near future.

So to all that wish to see any NBA age limit increase, it has to go through a young woman from the South Bronx, by the name of Michele Roberts. She is certainly Michael Jackson BAD! 

Please feel free to follow G.Herman on twitter @babethomherman

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