Serfing the NBA

I read today on the back page of the Tribune Sports section---"The Last Row"---that Bryant Gumbel compared NBA commissioner David Stern to a plantation owner. Not true. This is what Gumbel actually said, as quoted in the Trib report: "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". Gumbel is comparing Stern to a 'plantation overseer'.  The plantation overseer worked for the plantation owner; he did his dirty work; he cracked the whip, and used every other  terror technique to squeeze the maximum out of slave labor. Simon Legree, for example, was absolutely a sadistic depraved plantation owner. But he usually delegated to his surrogate, the overseer, the pleasure of beating, torturing, and slaying.

I don't know whether Gumbel had this distinction in mind when he made his disparaging analogy.  He may have done so for the shock value itself.  Nowadays, public figures do that a lot.  But the men who play professional sports, and basketball in particular, are hardly what you would call 'slaves'. Or even indentured servants.  Such talk cannot even be thought of as farfetched.  It's simply  the height of stupidity.

Who can be more the antithesis of slaves than NBA players.?  Free, independent contractors of their labor, unionized to collectively bargain for benefits.  Although in one respect, they do have this in common with those on the slave block. They're bought by the highest bidder.


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