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Gumbel blames Stern for the lack of resolution in the ongoing labor negotiations between the players and owners that led to the league canceling the first two weeks of the season.
“The NBA’s infamously egocentric commissioner seems more hell-bent lately on demeaning the players than solving his game’s labor impasse,” Gumbel said.
But he didn’t stop there. Gumbel evoked images of slavery in further remarks.
“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,” he 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 were intended to do little more than show how he’s the one keeping the hired hands in their place.”
Gumbel acknowledged that his comments would likely earn him some criticism but that he wasn’t concerned about it.
“Some will of course cringe at that characterization,” Gumbel said. “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.”
Meanwhile, the NBA announced last week that it was canceling the first two weeks of the regular season after owners and players were unable to reach a new labor deal and end the lockout.
At the time, Stern said that after two straight days of negotiations that both sides were “very far apart on virtually all issues. … We just have a gulf that separates us.”
The sticking point in the negotiations was reportedly how the team owners and their players would split the $4 billion in revenue generated annually by the league. The NBA claims that it is losing $300 million a year, with 22 of its 30 teams also in the red.
Meanwhile, Gumbel’s comments aren’t the first potentially controversial remarks he has made. In 2006, he said he doesn’t like the Winter Olympics and refuses to watch them, adding: “So 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.”
That same year, he said of outgoing NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue: “Before he cleans out his office, have Paul Tagliabue show you where he keeps [then-NFL Players Association executive director] Gene Upshaw’s leash,” Gumbel said. “By making the docile head of the players union his personal pet, your predecessor 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.”
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