During an interview this week, Michele Roberts discussed how the league's players grow the game in a multitude of ways but that does not include any equity in the enterprise.
Roberts said “what we don’t share is having an equity stake in the teams.”
“We’ve got a collective bargaining agreement that says we can’t [own stakes], and hopefully down the road we’ll make some changes,” she said. “The players will be the last to suggest that we want to see the game’s value, or teams’ values, in any way diminish, but it sure would be nice to be able to go to the party.”
Roberts said the question of equity was discussed briefly during the last round of negotiations that concluded in 2016.
The NBA is trying to make it easier to attract minority investors.
“If [private equity investment] happens,” Roberts said, “I will have players complain bitterly that, ‘Wow, we helped create this wealth, we helped create this value, and some private equity guy can come in and I can’t?’”
One structure that has been suggested are employee stock options, which are common in other businesses.
“There’s a way, in other words, for players to enjoy equity in these teams that may be non-traditional,” Roberts said. “It may be a little different from the way we do it on the private side, but I still think there’s an opportunity for us to talk about, think about and ultimately resolve what I believe to be an inequity in the system.”