Gumbel rips NBA commissioner

Bryant Gumbel, the host of HBO's

Bryant Gumbel, the host of HBO's "Real Sports," accuses NBA commissioner David Stern of being a modern day "plantation overseer." (REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)

JOHN MCMULLEN, SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 12:12 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Slavery is probably the biggest black eye in American history, existing as a legal institution in North America for more than a century before the founding of the United States in 1776, and continuing in the South until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1865.

For a country that is proud of its reputation as a melting pot, the treatment of slaves, often characterized by inhuman brutality and degradation, remains the most embarrassing part of its history.

That's why it's so tough to take millionaires so seriously when they compare their working conditions to slavery.

Back during the NFL lockout, Vikings All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson made the comparison when talking to YAHOO!'s Doug Farrar.

"It's modern-day slavery, you know?" Peterson said at the time. "People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too. With all the money. The owners are trying to get a different percentage, and bring in more money."

Peterson, who recently signed a seven-year, $100 million dollar deal, got one thing right -- people did laugh at his comparison and to his credit he backed off his comments.

"I regret using those words because obviously there is nothing, absolutely nothing that you can compare to slavery," Peterson said, per Judd Zulgad, then of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "It stands alone. It was something that I should have used better wording to put that out there."

Well, not according to Bryant Gumbel, the host of HBO's "Real Sports," who trotted out the race card in a blistering editorial about NBA commissioner David Stern.

Gumbel closed Tuesday's edition of his show by blaming Stern and Stern alone for the NBA's labour woes, and inflaming passions by using terms like, "boys" and "hired hands.

"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," Gumbel said.

"It's part of Stern's M.O. Like his past self-serving edicts on dress code or the questioning of officials, his moves are intended to do little more than show how he's the one keeping the hired hands in their place."

Gumbel, of course, has little credibility on race-related issues and seems to know it.

"Some will of course cringe at that characterization," Gumbel understated, "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."

I can understand anyone who has empathy for the NBA players in this situation but throwing out the phrase "plantation overseer" is not only an unfair shot at Stern, a guy working for the owners, it cheapens the entire issue, something Gumbel has a history of doing.

Gumbel once said former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue kept his players union boss, the late great Gene Upshaw, on a "leash" as his "personal pet."

He also once blasted the Winter Olympics and the Republican Party in one fell swoop for their perceived lack of color.

"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," Gumbel said.

The average salary in the NBA last season under a guy whose "disdain for the players is as "palpable and pathetic" was $4.8 million, the highest in all of professional sports.

Even if you roll that number back 30% and NBA players would still remain the highest paid.

Not bad for hired hands, huh?


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