Last week we relayed an unfortunate monologue from Bryant Gumbel in which he told his audience at HBO's "Real Sports" that NBA commissioner David Stern is "eager to be seen as a plantation overseer." The response was as you'd expect, with most discounting Gumbel's take and discouraging the Emmy-award winner for bringing race into the discussion regarding the NBA's labor impasse.
Of course, you could argue that Gumbel's take on Stern didn't necessarily have to act as a race issue, because it's Stern's attitude he's criticizing, but then again you don't really get to absolve your comments of race-baiting when you bring the word "plantation" into a dialogue about a largely African-American workforce in a league that features 29 white team owners out of 30 teams.
Either way, the comment struck a raw nerve. And because we're where we're at, I suppose, Billy Hunter had to actually deign to answer a question about whether or not David Stern, who works with more African-Americans by nine in the morning than some people will in a year's time, is a racist.
"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."
Simmons had to ask, I suppose, and Hunter had to answer. Happy, no one at all?
This is all so ridiculously daft. Of course David Stern isn't a racist by any stretch of the term that has been both misused and under-utilized for decades. Gumbel wasn't wrong in his opinions, though, because they're strictly his opinions; and we actually agree with Gumbel's sentiments. Stern has always tried to keep himself at arm's length from his league's players, distancing himself as he presides.
It was Gumbel's execution, and the clumsy rhetoric that followed, that was wrong. Again, the idea of Stern as an overseer, laughing down his sleeve at his players, doesn't necessarily have to include race. But you're not going to avoid it in this situation, and Gumbel made no attempt to.
And now, instead of important discussions about the owners' inability to come up with an agreed-upon revenue-sharing plan nearly five months into this lockout, and the obvious failure for the owners to bargain in good faith as they delay the season longer and longer, we're talking about whether or not David Stern is a racist. And even in a country where race and race issues needs to be brought up way, way more than it is, this isn't progress. It's just stupid.
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