Perspectives

'Massa' David Stern & the NBA 'Plantation'

By Tingba Muhammad -Guest Columnist- | Last updated: Oct 28, 2011 - 1:56:27 PM

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(FinalCall.com) Black sports commentator Bryant Gumbel has endured some curiously harsh criticism for his scathing analysis of how National Basketball Association (NBA) commissioner David Stern runs his business.

Mr. Gumbel said that Mr. Stern seemed “hellbent” on “demeaning the players” and that he “has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his boys.” Mr. Gumbel observed a pattern in Mr.Stern's behavior that he said was “part of Stern's M.O., like his past self-serving edicts on dress code and 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.”

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Mr. Gumbel's comments sparked a kind of disappointed outrage among his White colleagues in the sportscasting industry. They were offended that he would impudently reach back into the distant, ugly American past to find a racial analogy to the way the NBA operates today. But in actuality the comparison between the business of today's sports industry and the business of yesterday's plantation slavery is hard to ignore. Indeed, there are many parallels between the two:

Mr. Gumbel is not the first to draw the comparison. By his very behavior, the condescending White Jewish owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, assumed his natural role as a plantation master. When his superstar “slave” LeBron James chose to leave his place of employment, Gilbert was a hair's-breadth away from calling out the bloodhounds. He called James' move a “cowardly betrayal” and a “shameful display of selfishness.” Gilbert threatened: “Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.” “This shocking act of disloyalty [is a] heartless and callous action.” Gilbert went on to actually “curse” the beloved Black multi-millionaire, even casting upon him a “dreaded spell and bad karma.”

What other job have you left and your former boss speaks to you like that?! But whom is he trying to fool? Dan Gilbert bought the team in 2005 for $375 million. And with LeBron on the Gilbert plantation it was estimated to be worth $476 million. Without LeBron (the man Jesse Jackson referred to as Gilbert's “runaway slave”) the Gilberts will be “cursed” with many fewer millions.

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Despite this incredibly vituperative slave-massa language, the Jewish owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, AGREED WITH GILBERT! Cuban explained that “PASSION” comes with owning a team! This is precisely what Simon LeGree felt about his slaves in the iconic novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. In the book LeGree “flew into a violent PASSION,” and swore that if any more slaves misbehaved “he would chain them up for a week.” The PASSIONATE LeGree eventually whipped poor old Uncle Tom to death. According to a scholar of slavery, Oscar Zeichner: “In many instances negroes who walked away from the plantations, or were found upon the roads, were shot or otherwise severely punished.” What would the “passionate” owners Gilbert and Cuban have done to a runaway LeBron in those times?

Radio commentator Howard Stern was even more passionate than Gumbel: “Here's how I look at it,” said Stern. “LeBron James is an extraordinary basketball player and suddenly in the slavery system of the NBA—and I call it ‘slavery' because it's high-paid slavery but nevertheless they have this salary cap nonsense. Here's a guy who's devoted himself to basketball—notice the owners don't have salary caps. They can make as much money as they want with their franchise.” This statement earned Howard Stern no rebuke or public dressing down like that which Gumbel received.

But little attention is paid to Gumbel's next line: “Yes, the NBA's business model is broken. But to fix it, maybe the league's commissioner should concern himself most with the solution and stop being part of the problem.” And this is where Bryant Gumbel is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

It is NOT David Stern's role or responsibility to release his slaves from the NBA's 30 team plantations. He is merely performing a role that his ethnic ancestors have mastered since ancient times, according to the extensive research in the books The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews and Jews Selling Blacks: Slave Sale Advertising by American Jews. And so to insist on a change would be unfair to our great White commissioner. But what about the responsibility of the slaves themselves? It is 2011, Mr. Gumbel—148 years after emancipation. Are they not responsible now for their own freedom?

Those brilliant Black athletes are 100 percent of the reason why stadiums are filled and why America's couches are overloaded and bursting at the seams in front of giant-screen HDTVs tuned to a thousand sports channels. The ugly secret we all know but won't discuss is that not a single human being on the planet would pay a single penny to watch David Stern do anything in shorts. The very thought is less than inspiring. But they pay huge sums to see Kobe or LeBron and they care not whether the NBA is the sponsoring body. If the Black stars chose to unify, they could start a Black professional league, the “BBA” maybe, and wrest control of their own talent from the NBA's talentless white profiteers. After all, the owners could NEVER do what LeBron and Kobe can do, but both can easily do whatever pencil-pushing the owners do—ask Michael Jordan.

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There is a grandiose arrogance in the way Stern oversees the Blacks who generate all the revenue that pays his mortgage(s) and his children's college tuition. And it really begs the question: What does David Stern do that puts him in a position to determine the career paths of so many of our gifted Black performers? Can't WE arrange and manage a schedule of events where Black athletes are formed into teams for the purpose of playing a game for the entertainment of paying spectators? And isn't this precisely what all young Black children do every day when they play “pick up” games all over America? Are not our brilliant business-minded Brothers and Sisters able to work out the logistics of such an enterprise? Didn't we do that back in the day with our “Negro” Baseball Leagues? Does Stern possess some magical endowment that is unique to him and his ethnic group?

Our Black athletes need to think on a much higher level and start to lay out plans for our own basketball, baseball and football LEAGUES. David Stern loses ALL his power just as soon as LeBron, Dwayne, Amar'e, and Carmelo say so. As soon as Kobe says, “My name is Kunte Kinte!” it is all over for the Sterns and other Caucasian hangers-on. The government says that 403,000 people are employed in the “Performing Arts, Spectator Sports, and Related Industries,” each making about $45,000 a year. We know the big names, but many, many White families are supported by those 360 slams and end zone dances. Should not these 400,000 jobs be Black jobs? For every ONE Black athlete there are THOUSANDS of jobs created behind the scenes for White people: the stadium owners, managers, agents and attorneys, the sportswriters, referees and umpires, the radio and TV announcers, the broadcast technicians, food concession owners and workers, the ballboys, uniform makers, groundskeepers, security personnel, program printers, photographers, and memorabilia dealers, the “We're-number-one” foam finger makers, parking lot owners and attendants, etc.—all skimming the money generated by Black athletic prowess. Step beyond sports and we find beer and beverage makers, TV manufacturers, and all those who sell stuff to the tailgate partiers. Our own leagues, simply stated, would put all this economic activity in intelligent Black hands and back into our ailing communities! A massive economic coup of monumental proportions. And if we owned our own league, Black NBA Players Association, the owners could not hide all of these revenue streams from you, as they are doing to you right now.

And many of these jobs are multi-generational, meaning that they are jobs that can be passed on to children and other family members. The team owners can pass ownership to their children, and so can the many family businesses that service the sports industry. This leads to stability and true community wealth building. The players, however, are about the only ones in this equation whose job must be earned every year, whose performance statistics are doggedly calculated, whose children must start at square ONE along with every other child with hopes of dwelling in highlight heaven. One cartilage tear or Achilles tendon rupture and the checks stop instantly. David Stern and the NBA team owners can show up with a different injury every day (and in whatever clothing they want to wear) and no one would suggest that their career is over.

The NBA is now televised in 215 countries around the world, in 43 languages, and operates the Women's National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Development League as well—that's even more white people supported by even more Black athletes.

Mr. Gumbel has the kind of mind that can keenly consider these ideas. He also has the professional access to all the athletes and insiders that could make such an enterprise a reality, and in the process help make his people truly free. We hear your frustration, Mr. Gumbel. And we share it. Now let us do what The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has directed us to do: Let us get up and DO FOR SELF!

(For more information on this subject visit www.noi.org/hrd and join the conversation on Twitter @BlacksandJews.)

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