The National Basketball Players Association, the NBA’s trade union, has announced its next executive director, and the pick goes to show that the Church remains no stranger to labor organizing.
Her name is Tamika L. Tremaglio, and she’s a faithful Black Catholic.
“I’ve broken barriers, challenged misperceptions, and much like the professional athletes I’ve supported over the years, I have defied the odds,” Tremaglio said in a press release issued by the league on September 22nd.
“I’m incredibly grateful and passionate about this opportunity to serve the Players and positively contribute to the role that the NBPA will play in the future of basketball, both on and off the court.”
The news follows the announcement in August of current head Michele Roberts’ impending retirement at the end of the year, and the ascension of the Portland Trailblazers’ C.J. McCollum to the NBPA presidency that same month.
"Tamika has been by our side for many years, advising us on the best practices and policies needed for our organization to operate like a successful business," said McCollum in the release.
Tremaglio, an attorney who currently heads Deloitte’s operations in the Greater Washington area, has been a consultant for the NBPA (and WNBA) since 2012 and is also a longtime member of St Peter Claver Church in St Inigoes, Md.
Roberts has been at the post since 2014, when she became the first female director in the organization’s 67-year history—and the first in any major US pro sports union.
Co-founded in 1954 by Celtics legend and faithful Catholic Bob Cousy, the NBPA has long been a leader among sports labor unions, organizing various strikes throughout its history (including during its first year of existence), introducing the salary cap to US professional sports, and forcing a historic lockout in 2011.
As of 2019, NBA players were the highest-paid union workers in the world.
Following the ouster of executive director Billy Hunter in 2013, Roberts took the reins and helped players avoid lockout in 2017. Last year, during the early COVID-19 pandemic, she helped form the historic NBA “Bubble” in Orlando, which allowed pro sports to proceed on TV despite lockdowns and other restrictions.
Shortly after the conclusion of that season in October, Roberts accompanied a group of players to the Vatican in late November at the invitation of Pope Francis, to discuss racial justice issues about which players had been famously protesting in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.
Among the issues the union now faces is the growing controversy concerning COVID-19 vaccines, which several high-profile players have yet to receive, perhaps chief among them Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets.
Though Roberts has expressed her own desire that all players receive a shot, the union—representing the league’s 450 players, almost all of whom are vaccinated—voted against a league-wide mandate.
Even so, Roberts has stated that she believes Tremaglio will be “excellent” in her new role.
“I know she cares deeply about the players and wants the best for them, just as I do. I’m looking forward to retirement, but take solace in knowing the NBPA is in extremely capable hands.”
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).