“I’m the black sheep but Chris Farley wears the crown / And I know life is just a game in which the cards are facing down.” – Drake

In Michele Roberts’s senior yearbook, she quoted Malcolm X and Nikki Giovanni:“Joy is finding a pregnant roach and squashing it.” Roberts was born and raised by a single mom in a low-income housing development in the Bronx. She attended public schools before earning a scholarship her sophomore year to a boarding school. She received her undergraduate degree from Wesleyan (1977) and law degree from UC Berkeley (1980). Roberts could be considered a real-life example of the script from Finding Forrester. Last July, she was named Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA).

Roberts is the first woman to be in charge of a major North American professional sports union. Prior to being elected the NBPA Executive Director, Roberts was a trial lawyer with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (2011-2014), Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld (2004-2011), and Shea & Gardner (n/k/a Goodwin Procter). At one point in her career, she even headed her own firm (Rochon & Roberts; Rochon, Roberts, & Stern). Prior to this, she spent eight years in the Public Defender Service for D.C. (rising to chief of the trial division). Just as Jamal Wallace in Finding Forrester found a mentor in William Forrester, so too Roberts found a mentor in Charles Ogletree at the Public Defender’s office. Miss Elsy, Roberts’s mother, was also a strong figure in her life. As ESPN writes, “When other families in the neighborhood accused Miss Elsy of thinking her kids were better than everybody, she would respond, ‘No, I just think they’re better than everyone thinks they are.’”

Last week, ESPN aired a special Outside the Lines segment titled “Content of Character: Union Leaders Roundtable.” The host, Jay Harris, began the discussion by asking the panel, “What does the color of your skin mean for your roles as union heads?” Roberts answered, “We’ve had to deal with the fact that when we walk into a conference room or a courtroom or wherever that there are presumptions that are going to be made about us because we are African-American, and then added to that is the audacity of my being a woman in the world of sports. Having said all that, I allow myself to be troubled by it for about a millisecond and then we all just go on and do what we have to do.”

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