Gumbel invokes slavery in Stern rant
HBO "Real Sports" host Bryant Gumbel took a harsh stance against NBA commissioner David Stern, saying he has acted like a "plantation overseer" during the league's contentious labor battle.
Gumbel, who has not been shy about making racially tinged comments in recent years, placed the blame for the NBA lockout squarely on the shoulders of Stern Tuesday night.
"[Stern's actions] have been 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," said Gumbel, who added it has been Stern's "m.o." to try to prove that he "is 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," Gumbel said.
He labeled Stern as "ego-centric" and said if the NBA lockout is resolved it will be "in spite of Stern, not because of him."
The comments aired while the NBA owners and players were in the midst of a 16-hour negotiating session before federal mediator George Cohen in the hope of salvaging the season.
Stern, after canceling the first two weeks of the season, said last week that if the current set of talks do not yield considerable progress, games could be called off through Christmas and the entire season would be in jeopardy of being scrubbed.
Gumbel has invoked race on other occasions in his show-ending comments, including in 2006 when he likened the Winter Olympics to a GOP convention for its "paucity" of black athletes.
In another comment that many viewed as racially tinged, Gumbel slammed former NFL Players Association chief Gene Upshaw as incompetent in Aug. 2006.
Speaking just after Roger Goodell had taken over for Paul Tagliabue as NFL commissioner, Gumbel advised Goodell, to "have Paul Tagliabue show you where he keeps Gene Upshaw's leash," adding that Upshaw had acted during his tenure as Tagliabue's "personal pet."