National Basketball Players Association lead negotiator Jeffrey Kessler offered an apology on Wednesday for the inflammatory comments he made in the Washington Post, in which he said NBA owners were treating players like “plantation workers.” Kessler said his comments were “inappropriate” and that he planned to speak with NBA Commissioner David Stern.
While explaining the tense negotiations between the players and owners, Kessler said the owners are not negotiating in good faith by presenting a “take-it-or-leave-it” proposal to the players. “Instead of treating the players like partners, they’re treating them like plantation workers,” he said.
Stern responded to Kessler by calling him “routinely despicable.” The statement was surprising to officials for both the owners and players, with the tenuous labor talks teetering toward a possible resolution. A source close to the union expressed shock about Kessler’s comment on Tuesday because Kessler had privately been critical of Bryant Gumbel for comparing Stern to a “plantation overseer.”
Magic Johnson defended Stern in an interview with the Associated Press , saying it is “ridiculous” for anyone to suggest that he is racist. "This league is more diverse than any other league and has more minorities in powerful positions than any other league," Johnson said during a phone interview. "That's all about David Stern and his vision and what he wanted to do. He made sure minorities had high-ranking positions from the league office all the way down to coaches and front office people."