Blog Entry

Bryant Gumbel evokes slavery in David Stern rant

Posted on: October 19, 2011 2:16 am
Edited on: October 19, 2011 12:56 pm
Posted by Ben Golliverbryant-gumbel

NBA commissioner David Stern sat through more than 16 hours of labor negotiations on Tuesday and into Wednesday morning, but the harshest words aimed at him came from outside the bargaining room.

Emmy-winning television commentator Bryant Gumbel closed Tuesday night's episode of HBO's Real Sports with a pointed editorial aimed at Stern, whose league has made little progress in negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement since it locked out its players on July 1.

Gumbel's statement evoked slavery with reference to a "plantation," "boys" and "hired hands". Gumbel and a vast majority of NBA players are African-American. Stern is not. The following is a transcript of his editorial. 

"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 seemed more hellbent recently 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 and 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."

Here's the video of Bryant Gumbel's editorial against NBA commissioner David Stern.

These are not Gumbel's first controversial remarks concering racial issues.

In 2006, reports that Gumbel had harsh words for then NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and then National Football League Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw.

"Before he cleans out his office, have Paul Tagliabue show you where he keeps Gene Upshaw's leash," Gumbel said. "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."

In reference to the 2006 Winter Olympics, reports that Gumbel said: "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."
Back in March, Minnesota Vikings All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson made a reference to slavery during the NFL's recent lockout.

"It's modern-day slavery, you know?" Peterson said. "People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too." 

Hat tip: ProBasketballTalk

Since: Mar 12, 2007
Posted on: October 19, 2011 12:33 pm

Bryant Gumbel invokes slavery in David Stern rant

Grumbel Gumbel made his comments because most of the fans are black.  So this will get the fans on the players' side.  I do not like all these sports guys comparing their work to slavery because it belittles what the actual slaves went through.   And it just sounds stupid, when most of these sports players can quit and be financial set for life.

Since: Mar 18, 2009
Posted on: October 19, 2011 12:30 pm

Bryant Gumbel invokes slavery in David Stern rant

Why are we taking this? We need to start picketing for this racist's firing!!!

Since: Sep 12, 2006
Posted on: October 19, 2011 12:22 pm

Bryant Gumbel invokes slavery in David Stern rant

I've never liked Stern. If he ever really wanted to fix the NBA, he would have first made sure the game is played by the standard rules of basketball.
The NBA salary problem is just as much his fault as the owners and players.

As for these comments, much ado about nothing just like Hank Jr's. Also ESPN had the right to pull his intro, Hank didn't work for ESPN, he was just making money from his intro they paid him for. Hank is a freelance artist and he was never an employee of ESPN.
Also people should actually figure out what the word racist means before they throw it around so much.
Prejudice is one thing, racist is totally different.

I don't think either Hank Jr. or Brian Gumbel are racists.

Since: Oct 19, 2011
Posted on: October 19, 2011 12:21 pm

Bryant Gumbel invokes slavery in David Stern rant

From the other side of the Atlantic of the Atlantic I have to say Gumbel's comments read horribly. We have seen soccer players occasionally claiming to be held to contracts in a way that casts them as "slaves". For the average guy, scrapping every day to make a living, the thought of any group of people who are earning millions and millions of dollars per annum, living a life of luxury and excess that many of us can only dream of, being bracketed in the same category as plantation slaves is laughable.

It is an insult to those families whose history is blighted by genuine slavery and all the cruelty and inhumanity that it entailed.

Does Mr Gumbel believe he will elicit sympathy for today's NBA stars with his on-air diatribe? I firmly believe it will have the opposite effect.

Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: October 19, 2011 12:20 pm

Bryant Gumbel invokes slavery in David Stern rant

 - YOU HAVE PROVEN MY POINT.  You and I have traded ideas about the business of basketball - right.  Whether you agree with me or not, we have discussed what I feel about Stern, and how YOU feel about how I feel about Stern (which was goal when I started typing).  The first paragraph of what I wrote earlier said that Gumbel's metaphor (whether I believe it or not) moves the conversation from Stern to the use of the metaphor, which is probably not his goal (though everyone in the media needs to generate interest, so maybe that was his point to begin with).  If you read the most of the rest of the posts, they are about whether Gumbel is a racist or if he is an idiot - the idea he was trying to get across is completely lost. 

As for your arguments, I think  you have a coupld of good points, but I think you have to a second look here.  Yes many COMPANIES have maximum wages, but they can arbitrarily change those - there is no penalty for doing so as there is in the NBA.  Second, it is ILLEGAL to wage fix across an industry.  If the Kings want to say "we will not pay players more than $1,000,000", they are free to do that.  But the INDUSTRY cannot impose that rule UNLESS COLLECTIVELY BARGAINED WITH THE UNION.  We are not dealing with (supposed) non-revenue generating municipalities - we are talking business.  So I respectfully disagree with you and stand by my statement, this practice of wage fixing at an industry level cannot be done legally.  Look up wage fixing lawsuits on the internet such as .  Its illegal.  The NBA is not one company, it is the combination of 30 companies who are major players in a multi-billion dollar industry.  Therefore, I don't think your IBM/Microsoft counter-arguments hold up

The other thing I think you were misinformed about whas the depreciation thing. The reason I bring that up is that owners use team and building depreciation in their calculations for whether or not a team made money last year.  I would not expect you to know that because you sound like a reasonable, rational person, and that is NOT reasonable, rational argument.  If an owner came to you and said "Yeah, I know my team generated $20 million more revenue than incurred expenses, but I bought the team for $500 million but now its worth only $450 million, so I lost $30 million..."   you would say, well, to use your words, that is not comparing apples to apples. 

Which is all I am trying to imply here - the owners are not interested in presenting a logical, coherent case here.  They are interested in spinning all the facts in whatever direction they need to make their case. 

Since: Sep 12, 2007
Posted on: October 19, 2011 12:18 pm

Bryant Gumbel invokes slavery in David Stern rant

Wow!  I didn't realize the slaves on those plantations had it so tough.

Since: Apr 12, 2007
Posted on: October 19, 2011 12:17 pm

Bryant Gumbel invokes slavery in David Stern rant

I can't tell you how much Bryant Gumbel annoys me. Racism is playing a part in the NBA negotiatons? Last time I checked there wasn't one slave that drove a Jag, BMW, Mercedes or Bentley right? Last time I checked not one slave lived in a mansion with 15 bedrooms and personal servents of their own. The professional athletes have done well for themselves and not one of them have had to plow a field. Is the NBA a mess, yes. Is David Stern an ego maniac, no doubt. But to compare a professional sport where it's players are making millions of dollars to what the slaves had to endure all those years ago is flat out ignorant. I expect more from a well educated and well respected journalist like Bryant Gumbel.

Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: October 19, 2011 12:15 pm

Bryant Gumbel invokes slavery in David Stern rant

Gumbel is a moron, a black one at that, there I said it.

Since: Feb 7, 2007
Posted on: October 19, 2011 12:11 pm

Bryant Gumbel invokes slavery in David Stern rant

This is so not a "slavery" issue. Last I knew, the players were free to take their services elsewhere (overseas), compete with the owners by starting their own business/league or even change careers and fall back on that college degree they all have (yeah, right).  If I don't like what my employer is offering, I have the same choices  - accept it or find a different job. I wish I could make that choice based on whether I can "force" myself to take $x million minus 12% (still millions) instead of $x million.

Since: Mar 8, 2007
Posted on: October 19, 2011 12:05 pm

Bryant Gumbel invokes slavery in David Stern rant

You make a nice argument Moses, but professional sports leagues/teams play by different rules than normal businesses. The anti-trust exemption that they are granted makes a big difference. Teams compete against each other on the playing field, but are also dependent on the success of each other for the good of the league. If Apple makes a better product and knocks Gateway out of the personal computer business, that is a good thing for Apple. If teams fold or go bankrupt, that is a bad thing for the rest of the teams, in a business sense.

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