Michele Roberts

NBPA’s Roberts: Players Who Miss Games Due To Local Vaccine Mandates Shouldn’t Lose Salary

The National Basketball Players Association didn’t sign off on allowing teams to dock players 1/91.6th of their salaries for 2021/22 if they’re unable to play in a game due to a local vaccine mandate, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts tells Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News.

The NBA announced last week that unvaccinated players who are ineligible to play in games in New York and San Francisco wouldn’t be paid for the games they miss due to those cities’ local mandates. A follow-up report indicated that the league and the players’ union had agreed on the amount of the fine for such a violation.

However, Roberts tells Bondy that while the NBPA approved that per-game penalty (1/91.6th of a player’s salary) for certain health and safety protocol violations, the union doesn’t believe it should apply to players who miss games solely for being unvaccinated.

“They’ve been reporting that we’ve agreed that if a player who was not able to play because of his non-vaccination status, they could be docked (pay),” Roberts said. “We did not agree. The league’s position is that they can. We’ll see. If we get to that point, we’ll see.”

As Roberts explains, the NBPA’s position is that a player shouldn’t be punished for being unvaccinated, since the NBA has no vaccine mandate of its own for its players. The league’s stance, per Roberts, is that the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows teams to assess those penalties without NBPA approval.

“It’s debatable. We’ll see,” Roberts said. “I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but I’m going to say it’s a bridge we’ll cross, if and when we get there. Right now, we’ve agreed that a player breaks protocols, that he can be disciplined to include some taxing of his comp. But not being vaccinated — because it’s not mandatory — in and of itself should not lead to any discipline.”

As far as we know, the only NBA player who is in real danger of being docked salary for missing games due to his vaccination status is Nets guard Kyrie Irving. The local mandates in New York and San Francisco don’t apply to visiting players, and no other Nets, Knicks, or Warriors players have been reported as unvaccinated. An unvaccinated player in another market – such as Wizards guard Bradley Beal – should still be able to play in all 82 games.

[RELATED: Nets Unsure About Plan For Kyrie Irving]

While Irving, Beal, and a handful of other unvaccinated players have been the subject of an outsized number of headlines since training camps began, Roberts reiterated that the vast majority of NBA players are fully vaccinated. She told Kavitha Davidson of The Athletic (Twitter link) that there’s now a 96% vaccination rate among NBA players, noting that vaccinated players have played a role in helping convince some of the holdouts.

“We’re doing better than companies who are mandatory vaccinations because we’re at 95-96%,” Roberts said to Bondy. “100% is still an aspiration.”

Tamika Tremaglio Chosen To Succeed Roberts As NBPA Exec. Director

6:49pm: The NBPA confirms the hiring of Tremaglio in a press release, adding that Roberts will retire at the end of the year.

McCollum said of the new executive director: “Tamika has been by our side for many years, advising us on the best practices and policies needed for our organization to operate more like a successful business. Given Michele’s strong leadership and guidance that have brought us to where we are today, we were looking for a next-generation leader, who has the skills, vision, and credibility to pick up where Michele will leave off and to elevate our Union to even greater heights. Tamika’s well-rounded experience in collective bargaining, staff management, revenue creation, wealth preservation and culture building, undoubtedly will put our players in the best position to succeed.”


6:25pm: Deloitte lawyer Tamika Tremaglio has been chosen as the NBA Players Association’s new executive director, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Substack’s Marc Stein was first to report that Tremaglio had emerged as a leading candidate (Twitter link).

The Players Association has searched for months for a successor to Michele Roberts, who announced this summer she was retiring from her post.

Tremaglio is retiring as the Managing Principal of Deloitte’s Greater Washington practice to become the full-time director of the NBPA, Wojnarowski adds in another tweet. She has familiarity with the role she’ll be taking — she’s been a consultant for the league’s union for the past nine years.

This is the first significant decision made the Players’ Association since Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum became president. The current collective bargaining agreement runs through the 2023/24 and Tremaglio will now take the lead in negotiating the next CBA.

Stein’s Latest: Simmons, Sixers, NBPA Executive Director

The structure of Ben Simmons‘ contract may embolden him in his plans to hold out from the Sixers, Marc Stein of Substack writes in his latest newsletter. As Stein explains, Simmons received 25% of his 2021/22 salary on August 1 and will receive another 25% on October 1, meaning he’ll already have earned half of his $33MM salary for the season by the time the preseason starts.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons Adamant About Not Attending Camp, Not Playing For Sixers]

League rules permit the Sixers to assess substantial fines for each game he misses during his holdout (approximately $228K per game), but Stein suggests those fines won’t be docked from Simmons’ pay until November, after the first pay period of the regular season. If Simmons was on a more traditional payment schedule, those fines would be more costly, but it will take a while for them to put a dent into the $16.5MM he’ll already have earned this season.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Don’t expect the Sixers and Simmons to follow the blueprint that Al Horford and the Thunder or John Wall and the Rockets have, according to Stein. While those rebuilding teams were comfortable holding out their veteran players until they found a suitable trade partner, the 76ers continue to try to convince Simmons to report to training camp and have “zero interest” in reaching a mutual agreement to allow the three-time All-Star to remain away from the team, says Stein.
  • According to Stein, many of the teams that have engaged the Sixers in Simmons trade talks – including the Timberwolves, Raptors, Spurs, Cavaliers, and Kings – typically aren’t major players in free agency, and like the idea of securing a young impact player who is under contract for four years. However, most of those teams don’t have stars that would interest Philadelphia, or have made them unavailable in trade negotiations (such as the Wolves with Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, or the Kings with De’Aaron Fox).
  • The NBPA has enlisted Chicago-based search firm Heidrick & Struggles to help seek out a new executive director to replace Michele Roberts, according to Stein, who says that “well-placed observers” believe Roberts’ replacement could be an unexpected selection who hasn’t yet been publicly identified.
  • Stein, who previously named Malik Rose as a candidate to become the NBPA’s executive director, suggests Noah Croom, Arne Duncan, Nichole Francis Reynolds, Pat Garrity, and Mark Termini are other viable contenders for the job. Croom and Garrity are veteran team executives, Termini is a longtime player agent, and Duncan and Reynolds work outside of the NBA in education/politics and business, respectively.

And-Ones: Rose, Roberts, Thunder’s Arena, Free Agents, Silver

NBA VP of basketball operations Malik Rose is a candidate to succeed Michele Roberts as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, Marc Stein of Substack tweets. Roberts recently told Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill she planned to stay at her post for “another six or so months.” Rose was an assistant GM with the Pistons for two seasons prior to accepting his current post last June. 

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • A new name for the Thunder‘s arena will be revealed as soon as next week, Steve Lackmeyer of The Oklahoman writes. Signage for the Chesapeake Energy Arena was removed on Thursday. The team has a naming rights deal in place, pending approval of its application from the Downtown Design Review Committee.
  • Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul and John Collins are the top three potential free agents, according to a ranking system used by The Athletic’s John Hollinger. The top 20 free agents are ranked, with Hollinger projecting potential contracts offers for those players.
  • The challenges over the past two seasons created by the virus have been immense but NBA commissioner Adam Silver hopes it has brought a better understanding between management and players, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “That sense of unity, I hope we can keep up,” Silver said. “I think the players have a better understanding of what we’re up against in trying to run this business, and we have a better understanding of the players — what it’s like to travel the amount they do, the stresses they’re under, the emotional and physical burdens they’re under by competing at this level.”

And-Ones: NBPA, V. Baker, Hervey, Okobo, NBA Parity

In an interview with Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts spoke about why she considers this season a success, what role she plays in the union’s decision-making process, and the criticisms some players, including LeBron James, have vocalized about the shortened offseason heading into this year.

The recommendation to start in December came from the league,” Roberts said. “So the big ask was, could we start the games in December? And the answer was not yes from Michele. The decision to play or not to play comes from the players.”

As far as the criticisms from James, and others who may agree with him, Roberts’ reinforced her support for players voicing dissenting opinions. “I don’t have a problem with players that articulate their opposition to decisions that were made,” she said. “That’s their absolute right. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

We have more news from around the basketball community:

  • Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times writes about Bucks‘ assistant coach Vin Baker‘s rise as an NBA star, his battles with alcoholism – which included him drinking Bacardi Limón from a water bottle during games – and his eventual recovery and progression back to the world of the NBA. “This was an opportunity that was afforded to me not to screw up,” Baker said. “It’s not about me. Like it’s not about ‘I made it. I’m a coach of the Bucks.’ It’s about there’s somebody watching.”
  • Virtus Bologna has signed Kevin Hervey to a two-year deal, tweets Donatas Urbonas, a Lithuania-based reporter. The deal for the former Thunder second-round pick had been reported to be in the works in recent weeks.
  • Elie Okobo, the 31st pick in the 2018 draft, has signed with ASVEL Basket in France, reports Dario Skerletic of Sportando. Okobo will join former NBA players Norris Cole and Guerschon Yabusele, as well as top 2023 prospect Victor Wembanyama.
  • The “Parity Era” in the NBA may be here, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. “I see this as, hopefully, the end of a transition for the league,” Reynolds quotes commissioner Adam Silver as saying. “Not just post-COVID, but just by virtue of the teams that we saw in the conference finals, a real transition in terms of the league of the up-and-coming new stars, up-and-coming franchises, more parity throughout the league.” Whether that’s the case or whether injuries played more of a role in the playoffs shaping up the way they did remains to be seen.

COVID-19 Roundup: Silver, Vaccine, Restrictions, Flights, Postponements

The NBA has held discussions about players receiving COVID-19 vaccines in order to influence the general public, and the African-American community in particular, to do the same, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports. Commissioner Adam Silver hopes the league can set an example and foster the belief that the vaccines are safe and effective.

“Several public health officials — and this is operating state by state right now — have suggested there would be a real public health benefit to getting some very high-profile African Americans vaccinated to demonstrate to the larger community that it is safe and effective,” Silver said.

Right now, NBA athletes are not eligible to receive the vaccines until they become more widely available. It has been suggested that players could volunteer at public distribution centers and receive the vaccine in that setting while encouraging the public to follow suit. Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, has said that numerous players are hesitant about getting the vaccine.

We have more COVID-19 related news:

  • There’s been a mixed reaction to the recently-tightened health and safety protocols, according to Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report. Some players and coaches are resistant to the notion of having little to no contact with the outside world. Others say they have little choice. “If we don’t accept that that’s the way it has to be, we lose out on a lot of things. Our season, our health, our contracts, everything goes downhill if we don’t play by these rules,” Suns coach Monty Williams said.
  • In the same article, Highkin noted that 28 of the NBA’s 30 teams have a partnership with Delta Airlines, which has not mandated that its flight crews get tested for COVID-19 despite lobbying from the league’s medical leadership. Delta crew members must wear masks and can’t come within six feet of any NBA personnel, but several teams still refuse to eat on team planes.
  • The league is determined to continue playing despite a rash of postponements due to virus-related issues, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. An unnamed Western Conference executive told ESPN’s Baxter Holmes that resistance to playing in another bubble-like environment made these issues inevitable. “Nobody wanting to go back to a long bubble period of play has put us in this position,” he said. “It is doable but sub-optimal.”

NBA Officially Suspends Random Marijuana Testing For 2020/21

The NBA has officially suspended random marijuana testing for the 2020/21 season, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Ben Dowsett first reported on Thursday that the league would continue to forgo those tests after scrapping them for the summer restart in Orlando. The NBA will only conduct “with cause” tests this season, sources tell Dowsett.

Due to the unusual circumstances in conjunction with the pandemic, we have agreed with the NBPA to suspend random testing for marijuana for the 2020/21 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse,” league spokesperson Mike Bass said in a statement (Twitter link via Stein).

Although the coronavirus pandemic is being cited as the motivating factor for eliminating random marijuana tests in 2020/21, there’s no guarantee that the program will ever return in its previous form. As Dowsett writes in a feature for GQ.com, with the non-medical use of cannabis being decriminalized and legalized in more and more states, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts would like to see the testing program eventually removed from the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“I am absolutely confident (that) by next season – at the absolute latest by the time the next CBA is negotiated – this is going to be old news,” Roberts said of the NBA’s random marijuana testing.

And-Ones: Social Justice Board, Boatright, Jazz, Moore

Carmelo Anthony, Avery Bradley, Sterling Brown, Donovan Mitchell and Karl-Anthony Towns are the players chosen to serve on the league’s Social Justice Coalition Board, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania (Twitter links).

The NBA and NBPA agreed to create the group to advance equality and social justice after teams walked out of games in late August to protest a police shooting. Commissioner Adam Silver, deputy commissioner Mark Tatum and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts, as well as owners Micky Arison, Steve Ballmer, Clay Bennett, Marc Lasry and Vivek Randadive and coaches Lloyd Pierce and Doc Rivers.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Ryan Boatright has signed with Lithuanian club team BC Rytas Vilnius, the team tweets. Boatright, 28, played in Europe last season after spending time in the G League during the 2018/19 season. The former University of Connecticut guard also played in Italy, China and Turkey.
  • The sale price of the Jazz bodes well for the league’s franchise valuations, Bill Shea of The Athletic notes. The team, along with an arena and a couple of minor-league teams, were sold to Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith for $1.66 billion, and the league’s owners are expected to approve the sale. The valuation falls in line with expectations and doesn’t reflect any pandemic discount, Shea continues. It also reinforces the notion that team values keep going up.
  • Former Pacers forward Ben Moore has signed with South East Melbourne Phoenix of Australia’s NBL, according to the team. Moore is expected to join the club for preseason training next month. Moore, who also spent time in the Spurs organization, logged two games with Indiana during the 2017/18 season.

NBPA To Vote On December Start Thursday Or Friday

The National Basketball Players Association is planning to hold a vote on Thursday night or Friday morning on the league’s proposal to start next season on December 22, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports.

The NBPA, led by executive director Michele Roberts, started holding conference calls with players from each team on Monday and that process will go through Thursday morning. The tone of those calls gave the impression the season is likely to start before Christmas, Charania adds. In that instance, a 72-game season would be held.

The alternative start date is Martin Luther King Day on January 18 with a 60-game regular season. Previous reports suggested the league might limit the season to 50 games if it started in mid-January.

Sources communicated to Charania that NBA players feel the December 22 league start will happen. The NBA has projected that teams and players could suffer significant financial losses with a January start. The week of Christmas traditionally produces ample revenue, numbering in the hundreds of millions of dollars, for the league.

The league predicted that its television network partners may want to renegotiate their lucrative NBA contracts should Christmas games be skipped this season. Under either restart date, the NBA would reduce travel between arenas by 25% to minimize COVID-19 risk, and there would be a six-day All-Star Break. Also, a play-in tournament for the seventh through tenth seeds in both conferences would transpire.

Both the league and the NBPA are targeting a $109MM salary cap and a $132MM luxury tax. The two sides differ when it comes to how they feel the cap and tax should evolve beyond the 2020/21 season, however. The NBA would like to keep a flat tax and cap over the next few years, while the NBPA would prefer an annual increase, sources tell Charania.

If the two sides agree to a 72-game season tipping off on December 22, there would be 14 back-to-back games per team. The regular season would conclude around May 16, and the NBA Finals would finish at the end of July.

Were the NBA to embark upon a 60-game regular season on January 18, each team would have to deal with 12 back-to-back games. The regular season would resolve in June, and the NBA Finals would wrap up around the end of August.

Alex Kirschenbaum contributed to this report.

NBPA “Closer” To Agreement On Cap, Free Agency

Progress has been made in determining the league’s salary cap and free agency date, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told USA Today’s Mark Medina.

Roberts indicated the she’s “closer” to reaching an agreement with the league on those pressing matters.

We’re probably closer toward resolving that issue,” Roberts said. “Frankly, that is something we can’t hold off for deciding too much longer.”

A report earlier on Tuesday revealed that some team executives are preparing for free agency to begin 48-72 hours after the November 18 draft. Roberts admits that players headed to free agency are eager to determine their futures. However, teams won’t know how much they can spend until the salary cap is determined.

“We have free agents that are losing their minds, as are teams that want to engage and negotiate. So that’s something we don’t have the luxury of delaying a decision on,” Roberts said. “As tough as this is, it’s not life or death. We want to do it right and not do it quickly if it sacrifices doing it right.”

With the loss of revenue due to the pandemic, Roberts acknowledges the players and league have no choice but to find common ground.

“It would be silly to say we’re not possibly going to make a deal,” Roberts said. “Then we would just say hello to the end of professional basketball. I’m not anywhere near there.”

Roberts also addressed a few other topics:

  • She’s unsure how the latest proposal to start next season on December 22 will be received by the players, or how it could affect teams that made deep playoff runs in Orlando. She anticipates that players on teams who didn’t participate in the restart would be in favor of getting the season started sooner than later. “There are guys that haven’t played since the suspension of play in March and they may have a different attitude or not,” she said.  “Frankly, I’ve spoken to players that did stop playing at or about that time, and they’re banging down the doors to get back to the practice facility.”
  • She’s skeptical that teams can allow fans into arenas until a vaccine is widely available. “That’s such a big difference to indoor activity,” she said. “Much of the surge we’re hearing about right now has a lot to do with people returning indoors because of the weather. That concerns me.”
  • Another “bubble-like” setting on a limited basis is a possibility but she hopes it isn’t necessary. “I don’t think anyone wants to do that,” she said. “And if we do it, we don’t want to do it for any length of time.”