Bryant Gumbel invoked race in a televised editorial on the NBA's strained labor talks, likening league Commissioner David Stern to a "plantation overseer."
Gumbel ended Tuesday's edition of HBO's "Real Sports" by taking aim at Stern, who he said is to blame for the lockout that threatens the entire season. He said Stern's "disdain for the players" is "pathetic."
"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 has often played the race card when talking sports. In 2006, when then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was leaving office, he said Tagliabue kept Players Union boss Gene Upshaw on a "leash" as his "personal pet." The comment was widely viewed as having a racial overtone.
Later that year, Gumbel explained why he doesn't like the Winter Olympics.
"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 NBA and its players union were talking with a federal mediator present into early Wednesday morning in a marathon effort to bridge their gap.The league's lockout is 111 days old, and the first two weeks of the season have already been canceled.
Talks are hung up on how to divide revenue and the league's salary cap. Owners want to cut the players’ share of revenues to 47 percent from 57 percent. The owners have dropped their demand for a hard salary cap but they insist on new restrictions on the soft-cap system.
The average salary in the NBA is $4.8 million, the highest in all professional sports.