David Stern on Doing More For People of Color Than Bryant Gumbel (Video) – BlackSportsOnline
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David Stern on Doing More For People of Color Than Bryant Gumbel (Video)

NBA commissioner emeritus David Stern was a guest on the Nunyo & Company podcast this week and talked about his tenure as commissioner. One of the topics discussed was the 2011 lockout, which if you remember had subtle racial undertones, where majority billionaire white owners argued with majority millionaire black players about money distribution. At that time HBO Sports Bryant Gumble had some strong words for Stern calling him a “modern plantation overseer.” On the podcast Stern responded saying “I have done more for people of color than he has.”

That’s a lot to unpack and requires some nuance. Anytime race is brought up and the imagery of slavery and plantations we need to be very careful. First, any league commissioner works for the owners of said league not the players. Next, there are racial elements within the NBA. Teams are by and large owned by wealthy white men, their players (read labor) are predominantly rich black men. Here is where any kind of slavery analogy becomes problematic. It is very difficult to use that kind of analogy when you have players making millions of dollars. However, it cannot be completely dismissed because these players are still trading on their bodies for the entertainment, profit and enjoyment of a majority white audience, including owners.

Back to Gumbel and Stern, it’s hard not to see Gumbel’s comments as potentially some kind of grudge or vendetta against Stern. They were very personal and targeted. He brought up Stern’s dress code which many at the time saw as racist. Stern trying to sell his product to a white audience who had trouble identifying with cornrows, tattoos, truck jewelry, and du-rags. It’s not hard to see the racial element there. Does that warrant calling Stern a “modern plantation overseer?” That’s going a bit overboard.

Legendary New York Times columnist and author Bill Rhoden wrote a book titled Forty Million Dollar Slaves in which he addresses this issue. The athlete as ‘slave,’ and the ‘owner’ as the one who controls the rules that allows how an athlete’s money is made. The question it asks is why does the balance of power reside with the minority of white owners instead of the majority of black men that dominate the sport?

Stern’s response that he has done more for people of color than Gumbel may in fact be true. We need to see receipts from Gumbel on this. Stern did preside over a league that employs many wealthy young black men…

See video below of Gumbel’s full comments from 2011.