Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:21 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 1:28 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
They might stare each other down across the negotiating table, but National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter has NBA commissioner David Stern's back when it comes to allegations of racism.
Last week, Emmy-winning commentator Bryant Gumbel referred to Stern as a "modern plantation overseer" and evoked slavery in describing the ongoing NBA lockout in a nationally-televised editorial.
Hunter came to the defense of commissioner Stern on Monday in a podcast interview with ESPN.com.
"David is a hard-charger," Hunter said. "David pretty much treats everyone the same. Obviously when you've got the set up that you have, a league that is predominantly black and a group of white owners, it may take on a different color or appearance, but I don't think David is racist at all."
Hunter joined other prominent voices in the NBA community who have stood up for Stern. NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver recently called Gumbel's editorial "outrageous" while television commentator Charles Barkley said the remarks were "stupid."
He also expressed surprise that Gumbel's commentary received so much attention. "I didn't think it was going to get any traction," Hunter said. "It was Bryant Gumbel's opinion."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said that Gumbel's "exposed a subtext of tension" and that he "pulled the cover off a very sensitive issue." Hunter, though, made an effort to distance himself from that opinion, stating that Gumbel's accusations didn't advance the discussion.
"It's not healthy," Hunter said. "It's not healthy. It's just the nature of life in America, that's all. People make those assumptions every day. The difference is that we are on Front Street because we're very visible with professional sports, etc. People will make comments and render opinions that move their own agendas."
Asked if he considered Stern a friend, Hunter responded: "We don't socialize. We have a professional relationship, a respectful relationship. I like David. I don't dislike him as a person... The irony is, let me let you in on a secret: David and I are fraternity brothers. I was at Syracuse, he was at Rutgers but we were both members of Sammy -- Sigma Alpha Mu."
Posted on: October 22, 2011 6:33 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
There is no better indication that a situation has reached a crisis than when reporters start phoning the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Love him or hate him, Jackson has a firmly established reputation as a go-to voice when it comes to natural disasters, police brutality and, now, the NBA lockout.
The Washington Post contacted Jackson to get his response to what has been arguably the ugliest week the league has seen in years. NBA commissioner David Stern was called a "modern plantation overseer" by Emmy-winning television commentator Bryant Gumbel and the league's labor negotiations broke down on Thursday amidst direct, nationally circulated charges of lying and greed by the players against the owners.
Jackson's stance was clear: the league is reaching a point of no return and that Gumbel and Stern needed to mend their fences.
“I hope it doesn’t degenerate into names and language that’s hard to take back once it’s started,” Jackson said from his Chicago office late Thursday afternoon. “If it goes down this road, that could amount to irreparable damage. If it goes away from labor negotiations, things could become irretrievable.”With the federal mediation process failing so spectacularly, it's unclear who will emerge to effect what will need to be a Great Compromise between the owners and players. Putting the acrimony from last week into the rearview will not be an easy process, and it will become even more difficult if and when Stern needs to announce further cancellations of regular season games, something that could come at any time.
The hits to the players' pocketbooks, in the form of lost game checks, are coming right around the corner. Nobody likes to have money taken out of his pocket. How will the players as a whole react? And, then, how will that reaction evolve if the owners continue to refuse to bend in the negotiations?
It's quite possible that Jackson is correct in stating that the negativity is just beginning and major damage could be dealt over the next few weeks and months.