Bryant Gumbel, Bashing David Stern


People are either up in arms or sort of fluffing off Bryant Gumbel’s op-ed at the end of his “Real Sports” show on HBO.  He said something very inflammatory, sort of as an aside but it was overall an excellent characterization of David Stern as an inept Commissioner that cares more about ego than accomplishing things.

The thing he said that has people talking iswho 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.”  Plantation overseer, in a league dominated by Black athletes.  Hmm.  Pretty much saying something there for effect.  I’m sure he believes it.  I am sure he meant it.  But that’s got to be some sort of emphatic notion that he’s using to make a larger point.  “Plantation overseer” is a big deal, but it’s not the only thing to take  away from Bryant’s “and finally tonight…” or whatever he calls the Andy Rooney thing he does at the end of “Real Sports.”

The larger picture is that Bryant Gumbel thinks very little of David Stern.  Control and perception are what guide Stern, according to Gumbel.  His final statement is that the commissioner isn’t offering solutions, but has made himself part of the problem.

I’ve always sort of had an uneasy feeling about David Stern.  Maybe it’s the New York, lawyer, shyster-like approach he’s taken to things.  Maybe it’s how he treats everyone as one of his subjects, using condescension better than Prince Charles ever could hope to and making people not only feel small, but trying to paint them as either not smart enough or simply, uninformed.  I imagine him treating servers and cab drivers very poorly.  “Of course I want water, who doesn’t want water with their meal.  Get me a water and if I want another drink, I’ll tell you.”

Calling for a dress code and questioning officials is hardly grounds for calling a man in a precarious position as the head of an organization and ruling body that actually oversees a group of young, predominantly black men a plantation overseer.  At least he called it plantation overseer and not slave owner.  I think that measure gives Gumbel’s words a little more heft, but I would definitely say that aside, in otherwise lockout related opinion, is like typing in normal font for the outer thirds of your post and then making something big and bold right in the middle.  You forget the beginning and are too shocked at the middle to deal with the ending.

Perhaps, the plantation overseer line is a bigger deal than I thought.  I can’t get away from it.  It is so racially charged and the whole sentence just makes you sort of cringe at the thought.  Is that really the way a black man in America sees David Stern?  I have always had a sense of it, but I never thought it to be racial.  I just thought that was the way Stern did business.  Run around to anyone with a microphone and promote what he has or bash whatever he’s trying to win out against.  And if anyone questions the reasoning, make them feel small and stupid and talk down to them in a way that you come off as knowing, more intelligent and aloof to the point that your questions were unfounded.  That’s his M.O. not the racial sense that he’s the boss and he’s good to the players when it suits him, in some way that elicits pictures of the deep south in the early 1800’s.

Gumbel does make a good point.  Rather than trying to smear the other side in the public eye, why not fix the problems.  It’s like Hunter, Fisher and the players union are somehow castaways trying to cling to the NBA’s life raft.  Stern’s idea is to sink the union but every time he puts more weight on them to pull them under, it tugs on the side of his own liferaft.  It makes no sense, what he was doing last week with the media tour trying to say how he was right and the players were wrong.  When there is a labor stoppage, no one wins unless there is a swift and agreeable deal, and oh yeah, no loss of games.

I like “Real Sports” and I like Gumbel, always have ever since his days on the Today show and the cameo when he commented on Seinfeld’s horrible puffy shirt.  I think the comment about “plantation overseer” was fine to make, but for my purposes (and he doesn’t yield to me whatsoever, nor would I hope for that) but for me, it is a misplaced, overly agressive and highly charged statement in an otherwise lucid and important point.

(Link to’s transcript and video, along with interesting link to where Gumbel has done this before)

Andrew Barraclough is Senior Editor for, a Charlotte Bobcats Blog on the Fansided Network.  Follow him on Twitter @therobertogato and Like the site on Facebook.