One thing you know for sure about Bryant Gumbel is that he isn't one to mince words. So it wasn't too surprising that he didn't shy away from racial overtones during the closing monologue on his HBO Real Sports” program.
Looking back, Gumbel famously slammed former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his odd control over then-NFL union chief Gene Upshaw. And then he also took at shot at the Winter Olympics, comparing the event to a GOP Convention.
But Gumbel may have come on his strongest yet at the end of Tuesday night’s show, when he compared NBA commissioner David Stern to a plantation overseer, based on how the commissioner has dealt with the players and union head Billy Hunter during the lockout.
Gumbel said Stern’s obvious “disdain for the players” is “pathetic.”
"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," Gumbel said. "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."
Though some are trying to argue Gumbel may have gone too far, it appears that he was on point Tuesday. Stern has been condescending and sometimes downright insulting where the players are concerned during these negotiations.
Remember how Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade became upset with Stern during a negotiating session last month because of the way he spoke to the veteran player? Stern has shown little-to-no regard to the players' thoughts, to the point where he has been visibly dismissive toward their concerns about the issues of revenue-sharing and a hard salary cap.
Certainly, Sterns’ responsibility is to the owners, but he will have to work with the players once the lockout ends.
In the meantime, Gumbel was right to call out the commissioner for how he has conducted himself in public during the lockout.
“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,” Gumbel said. “I say that because the NBA's infamously egocentric commissioner seems more hellbent 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 alternatively 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 players didn't soon see things his way.”
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