Gumbel’s Grumblings Reveal A Lot

If Bryant Gumbel’s rant against NBA commissioner David Stern had come from some Hollywood nut job, the diatribe would have been quickly discarded. After all, ignorance abounds in a country of 308 million people.

But Gumbel did say it. And he’s not just some gas bag. Then again, maybe he is.

Not only did he compare Stern to a plantation overseer, but Gumbel suggested the commissioner wants players to know he’s the one who lives up on the hill and their job is to satisfy his cravings.

Gumbel saddled his foe with a disgusting label that only the most truly ignorant and by this I mean stupid, not uneducated would dare to suggest.

Let’s get this straight. Comparing pro athletes to enslaved Americans is ignorant and denigrates the tragedy that was American slavery, the memory of those held in bondage and the centuries of oppression the practice created. So whether it is Gumbel, William Rhoden, Adrian Peterson or Eric Cartman, knock it off!

No one argues that Stern can be egomaniacal. All power in the NBA rests in his hands, but arrogance is a long way from racism. Those who have covered Stern for years, and who have been the subject of his wrath, acknowledge he can be a very difficult man with whom to deal. The very same people also say it is ridiculous to suggest Stern has purposely played the role of “The Man.”

Under Stern, the NBA has provided more opportunities for minority owners, coaches and administrators than any other league. He embraced the individualism that made the league popular and embraced the hiphop culture that became the league’s soundtrack. And no, inserting a dress code was not racist. Stern has even kept the WNBA afloat when many others would have let it die from disinterest years ago.

Gumbel would be well-advised to discuss the controversy and to clarify his remarks. But, so far, he has refused, cowering behind an HBO spokesman who released the ineffective statement that Gumbel “feels there isn’t anything to elaborate on.” That’s the coward’s way out.

In a previous commentary about the double standard in reporting on women’s athletics, Gumbel closed a show by saying “If the definition of true equality is treating folks honestly without regard for race or gender, then it is time we start critiquing women athletes the same way we do the men … blind praise is meaningless with the absence of fair criticism.” Fair criticism also is meaningless without context or the courage to back up the charges.

Maybe Negrodomis was wrong. Maybe white people don’t like Wayne Brady just because he makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X.

Perhaps Gumbel’s just mad because after years of being one of the nation’s most watched and respected journalists, he’s been reduced to little more than a figurehead on a cable TV sports program that, while staffed with considerable talent, has very little reach except when its host decides to make himself the center of attention.