Tuesday night on his “Real Sports” HBO show, Bryant Gumbel made some egregious comments about NBA commissioner David Stern.
“Finally tonight, if the NBA lockout is going to be resolved any time soon, it seems likely to be done in spite of David Stern, not because of him. I say that because the NBA’s infamously egocentric commissioner seems more hell-bent lately on demeaning the players than resolving his game’s labor impasse.
How else to explain Stern’s rants in recent days? To any and everyone who’d listen, he has alternately knocked union leader Billy Hunter, said the players were getting inaccurate information, and started sounding chicken-little claims about what games might be lost if the players didn’t soon see things his way.
Stern’s version of what’s been going on behind closed doors has, of course, been disputed. But his efforts were typical of a commissioner, who has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer treating NBA men as if they were his boys. It’s part of Stern’s M.O. Like his past self-serving edicts on dress code or the questioning of officials, his moves are intended to do little more than show how he’s the one keeping the hired hands in their place.
Some will, of course, cringe at that characterization, but Stern’s disdain for the players is as palpable and pathetic as his motives are transparent. Yes, the NBA’s business model is broken, but to fix it, maybe the league’s commissioner should concern himself most with a solution, and stop being part of the problem.”
While David Stern is an infamously egocentric commissioner, Gumbel was completely out of line by bringing race into his argument. Though out of line, Gumbel’s statement should not come of surprise to anybody as he has made such blasphemous comments in the past.
In February of 2006, Gumbel said about the Winter Olympics:
“So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention”
In August of 2006, Gumbel kept the trend going when he directed these comments about then NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to current NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell:
“Before he cleans out his office have Paul Tagliabue show you where he keeps Gene Upshaw’s leash. By making the docile head of the players union his personal pet, your predecessor has kept the peace without giving players the kind of guarantees other pros take for granted. Try to make sure no one competent ever replaces Upshaw on your watch.”
Now I have no bias against Bryant Gumbel, I think Real Sports is a great show and I enjoy lots of the investigative reporting done in that show. That being said, I have to completely disagree with this radical black apologist stance that Bryant Gumbel consistently takes. I respect everybody’s right to have an opinion but I think Gumbel crosses the line when he unnecessarily brings race into the conversation. While I am a fan of David Stern, I can see where Gumbel is coming from in terms of Stern’s egocentrics and his argument about Stern demeaning the players. However, Gumbel allows his radical racial opinions to cloud his vision when it comes to this lockout. It is not only David Stern demeaning the players. The players have put just as much effort into public relations as Stern has. And for the record, I listened to Stern speak last week when he was interviewed by both Darren Rovell and Mike Francesa and I would not necessarily say that Stern demeaned players. Stern told his side of the story as he would like the public to know it. Just as how the players have taken to twitter to try and show this image of solidarity and this illusion that they are victims of this lockout.
I believe the owners have made concessions. They have come off the hard cap. They have eased up on the BRI split. I believe the players are holding this agreement up with their unwillingness to give up money and change the system. What Gumbel fails to see is the other side of this lockout. He sees the players side but he does not see the owners side of the argument. Stern is trying to get the best deal for his owners. That is his job. That is what he is paid to do. He is no plantation owner. The NBA players are not being forced to take 5 million dollars a year. The NBA superstars are not being forced to take a BRI cut from 57 down to 53 or 50. Thats the whole reason we have this lockout is because the players have a 50/50 voice in this discussion.
Now how ridiculous is this “plantation owner” comment. Hell, if the NBA is a plantation and the players are slaves making an average of 5 million dollars a year, then sign me up. I would love to work on a plantation where I play basketball and make millions a year. How is David Stern trying to control “his boys”? By enforcing a dress code? People forget. The players are EMPLOYEES of the NBA. The players, while being the main attraction, do not run the NBA. If not for the owners, there would be NO NBA. How can you call the commissioner of the league a “plantation owner” when the league average salary is 5 million dollars a year. How can you call Stern a “plantation owner” when the league provides a forum for players to improve themselves on the court and off the court with community service opportunities and endorsement opportunities they would have otherwise not had? Gumbel is so wrong to bring race into this because race has nothing to do with this lockout. Stern isn’t lobbying for the white players to make 30 mil a year while the black players make minimum wage. Does Gumbel even realize that Stern works for the owners? If he was going to make this idiotic comment about somebody, he should have made it about the owners. Stern serves as their spokesman and fights for what they want.
Gumbel’s comments made me so angry because they are so untrue, out of line and unnecessary. There is no reason to bring race into this discussion. Nobody else has and probably nobody else will because there is no reason for it. Stern is no racist and he is no plantation owner. Just because he is fighting a PR battle with the union, and in my opinion is winning, that makes him a racist? Stern is doing what any person of power in a labor situation does. They fight for their side of the issue. In my opinion it is the players, such as Kevin Garnett that are holding up these discussions. I respect all people’s right to have their own opinions but when race is brought into it, that is when the line is crossed. Gumbel was flat out wrong in making racist statements about Commissioner Stern and I think there are few people that would debate that.Follow @tarmosino