Bryant Gumbel, the award-winning host of HBO’s "Real Sports," is under fire after using the platform of the program to editorialize about how NBA Commissioner David Stern is conducting business during the league’s labor dispute, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Gumbel said on-air: “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. 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."
Stern reportedly has not responded, but others were speaking out. USA Today reported that NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, commenting on radio host Dan Patrick’s show, called Gumbel’s comments “stupid,” adding that the remarks were “disrespectful to black people who went through slavery — when [you’re talking about] guys who make $5 million a year.”
Meanwhile, the NBA’s second-in-command gave the first official response from the league. CBS Sports reported that NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said of the Gumble statement, “I thought it was outrageous.” His brief response came today during a meeting of the NBA’s Board of Governors.
This is not the first time Gumbel has compared the commissioner of a professional sports league to a master. The THR story reports that in 2006, when NFL head man Paul Tagliabue was stepping down, Gumbel said: "Before he cleans out his office, have Paul Tagliabue show you where he keeps [then-NFL Players Association executive director] Gene Upshaw’s leash. 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."