Lots of chatter the last few days, some of it actually intelligible, about HBO broadcaster Bryant Gumbel comparing NBA commissioner David Stern to a "plantation overseer."
Couple of things about that.
1. As a black American, Gumbel is far more equipped to discuss the nuances of slavery than I am, or any other white blowhole out there. But as such, he also should be far more equipped to understand what a grotesquely distorted and inappropriate characterization that is.
Should be. Apparently wasn't.
2. That said, he's not entirely wrong. Even if the context -- this is, after all, one group of stupid-rich, empowered people vs. another group of stupid-rich, empowered people -- is as wrong as it can be, Stern is the owners' mouthpiece. His job, therefore, is to advance their interests. And 99 times out of 100, the owners' interests involve, to a greater or lesser extent, keeping the players in their place.
That's essentially what's going on now with the scuffle over Basketball Related Income. The owners want a reduced share for the players. Part of this is simply trying to construct a working business model; part of it is to re-establish a hierarchy that got turned upside-down last summer when LeBron James and Chris Bosh used the leverage they had as superstars to take ownership of their own futures.
In other words, LeBron and Bosh were saying (to quote an anonymous former slave in the immediate wake of the Civil War), "Bottom rail on top this time." Or something akin.