Although word of the 16-hour negotiating session at midweek suggests that all parties are still working toward a solution, the news emerging from the NBA labor talks in recent weeks has not been promising. First, the preseason was cancelled. Up next, the first two weeks of the 2011-2012 campaign were excised. Reports emerged of heated confrontations and between Dwyane Wade and NBA Commissioner David Stern. Those were followed by accounts of other high-profile superstars parachuting into contentious conflicts with Stern and his team.
At the conclusion of a recent episode or HBO Real Sports, the program's host, Bryant Gumbel, made it very clear where he thinks the blame lies. Gumbel lambasted Stern for not negotiating in good faith and for consistently trying to turn public opinion against the players and their union. By no means is Gumbel the first, or last, person to make such accusations, but the language that he used and history that he invoked insures that his comments will stand out from the crowd.
"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."
Referring to Stern as the NBA's infamously egocentric commissioner" as he worked his way toward the "overseer" remark, Gumbel was brutal in his editorial comments. His vitriol -- and word choice -- has made him the target of critics in the days since he spoke.
"I thought they were stupid, Barkley said. "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."
Although Barkley felt that Gumbel misspoke insofar as he invoked the plantation -- which, despite the direct association to slavery that seemingly everyone was making, existed long before and after slavery -- the NBA Hall of Famer had no illusions about where Stern's loyalty lies.
"David Stern works for the owners and his job is to make sure the owners have a fair deal," says Barley. "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."
Perhaps thinking of the NBA commissioner as just another hired hand doing the bidding of his bosses would make his behavior seem a bit less sinister to Gumbel.