In a recent interview with Lee Hawkins of the Wall Street Journal, NBA Commissioner David Stern talked about how rookies coming into the league handle their sudden influx of fame and wealth. To that point, Stern referenced the ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Broke” by Billy Corben, calling it “mildly racist”, presumably because most of the subject’s covered in the documentary about bad financial decisions made by pro athletes are African-American.
So 80% of YOUR league is black, and of the Top 50 highest players in the league only a handful of them are white (of which Kevin Love is the only white American) and you are surprised that a documentary that features your league would have a heavy emphasis on black players?
As if insinuating racism isn’t enough, he attacks the veracity of the Sports Illustrated piece “Broke” was based on. The problem is that the producers of the film were not trying to prove or disprove the SI piece; they were using it as starting point to stimulate a discussion that hopefully changes the culture of spending by pro athletes. (ESPN’s statement on the matter confirms that.)
Despite the fact that many athletes have publicly lauded director Billy Corben’s work as something that should be shown to all athletes entering professional sports, Stern tries to undercut the film’s credibility. Much like WWE’s Vince McMahon tries to humble talent that was imported from other companies by saddling them with horrible gimmicks (think Dusty Rhodes in yellow polka dots), Stern doesn’t give credit to something because it isn’t coming from his office. They have a rookie symposium, and I strongly believe the movie should be on the schedule of events.
By bashing the film’s credibility, David Stern is indirectly telling his incoming athletes that they should not heed the films warning because it predominately focuses on black athletes. He doesn’t want a group of young, mostly black, athletes who are about to come into a lot of money to learn a valuable lesson because its focused on young, mostly black, athletes who came into a lot of money. It’s like Antoine Walker and Allen Iverson don’t exist in Stern’s world.
The other thing that is interesting about Stern’s insinuation is that one of the major focuses in the film, Bernie Kosar, isn’t even black. Heck, it’s pretty safe to assume that telling Kosar’s story was one of the primary reasons the film was even made. (Corben also directed 30 for 30’s “The U” which features a pretty heavy dose of Kosar and they are both University of Miami graduates).