NBPA's Michele Roberts Discusses Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, BLM, More

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistOctober 30, 2020

FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2014, file photo, Michele Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Roberts planned on being in the NBA’s restart bubble at Walt Disney World for a few days. Three weeks, at the most. She never left. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Susan Walsh/Associated Press

Michele Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, addressed plans for the players to continue their activism as the NBA prepares for the start of next season.  

Speaking to USA Today's Mark Medina, Roberts said the NBPA's "work will certainly continue" and the 
"commitments that the players have made to these issues are not going to fade at all."

Roberts did note that the league and players association believe initiatives are more important than protest symbols and she's unsure if the NBA will continue to have Black Lives Matter printed on every court, as it did during the restart.

"We'd like to think our work doesn't begin and end with symbols," she explained. "If that is all we did, shame on us. If that is all we need to do going forward, shame on us. If we don't have 'BLM' on the court, though, does that mean shame on us? I don't think so. At some point, those things become a little gimmicky."

On the topic of criticism toward the players from President Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Roberts said she doesn't give it any attention:

"If you think for one second that I spend time worrying about what Donald Trump and Jared Kushner say about our players, think again. People can support who they support. But I don't view what the players do or don't do, and should or should not do, based on what the president and his son-in-law say."

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Trump tweeted on Sept. 1 that NBA ratings "are WAY down" because "people are tired of watching the highly political" stance taken by players during the restart. 

Kushner told CNBC's Squawk Box in August that "NBA players are very fortunate that they have the financial position where they're able to take a night off from work without having to have the consequences to themselves financially" in the wake of the Milwaukee Bucks' decision to protest their playoff game against the Orlando Magic in the wake of Jacob Blake being shot in the back by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The Bucks' protest led to the NBA halting postseason play for three days while the league and union negotiated a series of social justice initiatives to promote access to voting, civic engagement and advocating for police and criminal justice reform. 

The NBA announced as of Oct. 20 that 22 NBA and WNBA arenas, as well as six G League arenas, are being used for election-related activities, including voting. 

NBA team owners have committed to donating $300 million over 10 years to provide economic support to Black communities across the country. 

As the league continues its off-court activism, there are still discussions about when the 2020-21 season will begin. Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported the board of governors has been told Dec. 22 is the target start date for a 72-game season. 

Per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, there's a "substantial faction of players" who are pushing for free agency to start on Dec. 1 and the season to start on Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 18). 

The 2019-20 season ended on Oct. 11 with the Los Angeles Lakers defeating the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.