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Bryant Gumbel: David Stern Is Eager to be Viewed as a ‘Plantation Overseer’

Bryant Gumbel received attention five years ago when he suggested NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue had players association leader Gene Upshaw on a leash. Now he’s going after another leader in a sports labor debate: NBA commissioner David Stern.

In his closing monologue on HBO Real Sports Tuesday, Gumbel charged Stern with holding up progress in NBA labor talks. He also said Stern views himself as a plantation owner who presides over the players like they’re hired help.

Here is his entire monologue, as transcribed by Ben Golliver at Eye on Basketball (with video below).

“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,” Gumbel said. “I say that because the NBA’s infamously egocentric commissioner seems more hellbent lately on demeaning the players rather than his game’s labor impasse.

“How else to explain Stern’s rants in recent days? To any and everyone who would 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 players didn’t soon see things his way.

“Stern’s version of what has 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 were 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 the solution and stop being part of the problem.”

Gumbel is out of place as a play-by-play man, but he can still bring it when it comes to editorializing. However, I think he’s off base in some respects.

Stern has always struck me as an egocentric commissioner who is equal parts smarmy and arrogant. He acted like questions regarding referees were beneath him, even though one of his referees was part of one of the biggest scandals in sports. “The NBA having crooking referees? Who us?” that’s the sort of thing Stern would say as Tim Donaghy was being taken away in handcuffs.

I don’t disagree with Gumbel’s characterization of Stern, I just feel the commissioner’s denigration of people is not exclusive to the players. Stern acts like he’s a big boss and everyone else is his pawns. The owners, the players, the reporters, and the fans are all pieces Stern manipulates. He knows it, and he knows he’s running a billion dollar enterprise from which he earns a multi-million dollar salary. Why else do you think he has such a smug grin on his face whenever he talks?

Here’s a video of Gumbel’s closing remarks:

Thanks to Paulie Pabst for the initial heads up.


Around The Web

  • Anonymous

    Hey Gumble you think I could get a job on that plantation as hire help. That’s one hell of a plantation when you can make millions and live life without any money worries. I would just want to make about 100,000 a year that’s peanuts compared to what these greedy leeches want to put a ball in a basket.

    Why not come out for the fans and help them and talk about how high ticket and food prices are at games. Always gotta put a racial tone on an issue, when it’s a white man in charge.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Gumble you think I could get a job on that plantation as hire help. That’s one hell of a plantation when you can make millions and live life without any money worries. I would just want to make about 100,000 a year that’s peanuts compared to what these greedy leeches want to put a ball in a basket.

    Why not come out for the fans and help them and talk about how high ticket and food prices are at games. Always gotta put a racial tone on an issue, when it’s a white man in charge.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W62PKS7B3K4AAB7Z5EU65YLH5Y Dave W

      So why is nobody raising hell about this being a racist statement .  If the NBA was 90% white he would not have made this ststement.  I like Gumble and watch his show, but he makes racist remarks and comparisons at times and gets away with them because he is black.

  • Anonymous

    This is actually part of Gumbel’s M.O., not Stern’s.  Stern is the CEO of a billion dollar corporation;
    he works for the owners, who are the shareholders. He’s been exceptionally
    successful for many years, and has been paid accordingly (although not as well
    as most CEO’s of corporations on the S&P 500). His latest efforts are an
    attempt to weaken Union cohesion and resolve, to bring this labor dispute to a
    conclusion as favorably as possible for the owners, and he’s again having some success.

    Gumbel is obviously aware of all that, and of the fact that
    people who rise to the role of CEO in huge corporations (like Glenn Britt of Time
    Warner-HBO) are by nature egocentric. Gumbel can identify with Stern on that,
    in terms of having a well developed ego at least. Much as Stern’s task now is
    to break down the players union, Gumbel’s is to drive ratings, and what better
    way to accomplish that than by evoking the plantation image in reference to a
    corporation populated by 90% black athletes. It’s easy, it’s provocative, and
    it draws attention. It’s also cheap and childish, and below Gumbel talents as a
    reporter and social commentator.   

  • Anonymous

    yep. Hes so fuking rascist he cant stand it.  He doesnt get it.  Greed has taken over, and the end result is nothing.  Both sides need to give.

  • Anonymous

    WORD! Thats so off-base its bordering on the absurd!  Must be tough getting senile, eh Gumble?

  • Anonymous

    Gumble- What an irrelevant moron….

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C7Y67DV4XHZBZTODNXC572564Y Damon C

    Good piece of journal. Everybody always complains about what these young mostly african american millioniare ball players are making, but never say SH&*%t about what these mostly caucasian american ”billioniare” owners are making. Last time I checked, no fan in their right mind came to any basketball arena usa and paid these over price fares for seating, food & beverages to see their caucasian “billioniare” owners….What Gives America ???

  • Anonymous

    Time for Stern to GO.  A long time ago, Out of touch (except to his Owner buddies) with fans and the times.  If you can’t make a profit from all the business you do, then you should die out. Someone will come by and pick up the pieces and carry on. Should have done that with the Banks also. People git greedy overtime.  Time for a restart.