Bryant Gumbel did what he set out to do — he got people talking about labor relations in the NBA. People are talking about David Stern and how the owners treat the players.
Although, many people are just focusing on Gumbel’s “plantation overseer” comment more than the substance of his thoughts. (Henry Abbott did a great breakdown at TrueHoop.) And with that has come backlash on Gumbel.
For those who would like to read the comments and not listen to Barkley’s voice, here you go:
“I thought (Gumbel’s comments) were stupid. First of all it’s disrespectful to black people that went through slavery while guys are averaging five million dollars a year, that’s just disrespectful. When David Stern took over, I went and did my research because I knew people would make a big deal out of it, when Davis Stern took over the NBA in 1984 which was my first year the average salary was 315,000 dollars. That was the average salary. The average salary now is 5.15 million dollars. When has he been holding people back from making money? Secondly David Stern works for the owners and his job is to make sure the owners have a fair deal. I like Bryant and I like that show a lot but the commissioner works for the owners. He’s just trying to get a fair deal for the owners. It’s disrespectful to black people. I don’t think slaves are making 5.1 million dollars a year.”
Clearly, NBA players are not slaves (they can leave their jobs, for one). That said, more than one NBA player has used similar imagery when speaking to me off the record about the lockout — guys see themselves as working for rich guys and now those owners are trying to take more than their fair share. Yes, the financial sums are pretty crazy, but when people feel a deal is unfair they won’t support it. That is a lot of what has gone on here.