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Yesterday we posted the video of Bryant Gumbel's controversial comments on David Stern where he compared Stern to a "plantation overseer." Yesterday ESPN's Bill Simmons shared his own controversial thoughts on the NBA and it's lockout. SB Nation's NBA Editor Tom Ziller took Simmons to task.


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In a critique of Simmons' article, SB Nation's Tom Ziller broke down several elements of his argument.

One particularly interesting aspect of Simmons' piece was his assessment of the players' intelligence.

"I don't trust the players' side to make the right choices, because they are saddled with limited intellectual capital. (Sorry, it's true.)," wrote Simmons.

Ziller provided the following response:

"A sportswriter who asserts without evidence that killing three teams, cutting the schedule, adding a play-in tournament, convincing players to reject millions of dollars and talking to Malcolm Gladwell will lead the NBA to the promised land is accusing NBA players of having limited intellectual capital," wrote Ziller.

"This is outrageous. There's really not much more to say about it other than Bill Simmons just said that players are largely stupid."
Gumbel's comments caused a huge stir yesterday with the accompanying Bryant Gumbel trending on twitter. Simmons' comments have gone almost completely under the radar, with the exception of Ziller who calls this a "Stunning double-standard."

It should also be noted that Simmons compares the NHL to the NBA in his column and in explaining how the NHL is better, he claims it has the "highest percentage of "most likable players" (hands down)." I would have liked to have seen Ziller point out the elephant in the room, instead of just dancing around it. Simmons is essentially calling white NHL players "most likable" and black NBA players "saddled with limited intellectual capital." Now not all NHL players are white, but it's pretty damn close. And not all NBA players are black, but it is a vastly predominantly black league and out of the players on the negotiating committee Matt Bonner is the only non black player.

I know people are often scared to talk about race (as seen from the zero comments on the Gumbel piece), but I'm curious what people's thoughts are on Simmons' comments. I'm guessing if someone else had said them, Simmons would be sure to call them out on the racist undertones, so he should expect the same scrutiny, correct? So were Simmons comments alarming or much ado about nothing?

Gumbel Video      Simmons column       Ziller Column

JR 10/20/2011 03:51:00 PM Edit
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15 Responses so far.

  1. I'm guessing he was more pointing out that the players involved in negotiations have largely never been to college or barely went. The players that who went to legit academic institutions and graduated aren't involved like a Shane Battier from Duke, who happens to be black. Don't think no college or one or two yrs at a joke academic school prepares people to handle labor negotiations. Doesn't matter what race you are.

  2. I'm sure some people will go down that road. But let's face it, most NBA players - like most professional athletes - are dumber than a bucket of rocks. Twitter don't lie.

  3. Nate says:

    This is dumb.

    NBA players repeatedly do DUMB SHIT. Getting arrested for incidents in nightclubs, taking guns into the locker room, etc.

    They prove their lack of intelligence by actions. It has nothing to do with most NBA players being black. They aren't dumb because they are black, they are dumb because they are dumb.

  4. I think Simmons speaks his mind regardless. To assume its a black/white thing is wrong in my opinion. If you look at the NBA from the view that many of them came from poor uneducated backgrounds. Add to that the glitz and glam that many NBA players seek, not to mention how blatantly obvious some of them are more concerned with being paid and not holding up their end of the bargain, and how so many of them use the school system to make their way to the league. Not to say this doesn't happen in the NHL too but the culture of the leagues are very different as well. Long gone are the days of humble NBA players. I may be way off but there is no right answer here. Food for thought though, take a sample of player interviews from both leagues and just compare them. It's ridiculous how many NBA players struggle to answer simple questions and respond sensibly. Maybe its just because I watch waaay more NBA that I say that but too many times I've switched the channel because of some of the nonsense these players spew to the media. Race doesn't matter, great athletes with talent lean to where they will be successful regardless of the sport. I just feel a a lot of NBA players just aren't that smart. Again with the culture difference, count the articles of NBA players blowing through ridiculous salaries post career and you'll see just how smart they are.

  5. Anonymous says:

    So far everyone who's posted has disagreed with the premise of the article, and I'll continue the trend. There's no transitive property here unless you force it. It's a fact that the NBA is predominantly black, but saying players are dumb in no way equals black people are dumb. Baseball has a very small black percentage of players, and I'm sure Simmons thinks they are dumb too (especially the Red Sox). They are athletes, not lawyers and not rocket scientists. Ziller didn't even get into the racial aspects, he just seems offended that athletes were generalized as being dumb. You brought the race card in, 5 commenters disagreed. No need to take it further and try to imply some unspoken reason for your actions. Just like trying to jump two steps to the side on Simmons's column isn't right either.

  6. tb727 says:

    I love this topic, not even because I agree with one side or the other, but just the fact that we can ACTUALLY discuss it without having this thread locked.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Simmons jumped the shark years ago. But regarding the NBA and race has he ever had an African-American on his show? Has he ever interviewed an NBA player to decide if they're dumb or not? Has he spoken personally to Hunter, Fisher, Evans, Paul, or Ratliff? I do recall him interviewing Paul Shirley once, but can't remember any other players. I'd love to see KG's reaction to Simmons calling him stupid.

  8. JR says:

    Nice to see some discussion here.

    To the 1st Anonymous, Race card? Really? Why else do you think Ziller finds Simmons comment "outrageous?" Why else does he bring up the "stunning double standard" with Bryant Gumbel's David Stern slavery comparison and Simmons intelligence comment? It's not a reach to see that Simmons statement had racial undertones. I doubt that he meant it too. I don't fault Ziller for pointing out the double standard or calling Simmons's statement outrageous.

    I like the idea of Simmons interviewing players. I doubt he'd sound so smug.

  9. shelbyl says:

    Simmons might be a "latent racist", but I do not think he intentionally wrote with the race issue in his mind. But then again he is Simmons, he has "outrageous" opinions about everything, and I read the guy for that reason, solely to entertain myself, not to inform. (and how many commas did I put in that sentence?)

    Simmons was pro-owner -well, not necessarily openly but still- since the beginning of the negotiations. I'm not surprised.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Re: 2nd Anonymous, Simmons had Blake Griffin on his podcast literally the day before you posted. And he has bemoaned the fact that Hunter won't come on his podcast despite repeated invitations. And he often cites both the Writer's Strike and the NHL lockout (both majority white labor actions) as examples of why management will win in the end, and by a greater margin than if the players had just caved early.

  11. This is taking Simmons' comments out of context. If you listen to his podcasts or read his articles theres no way he thinks the players are dumb. He criticizes both sides for being dumb in this whole thing (I think we can all agree on that).

  12. Bill's right about (most) NBA players being dumb. Absolutely. But he's wrong about NHL players being more likable. Delonte West and Glen Davis have more personality in their pinky toes than the majority of NHL rosters.

  13. The NBA has stupid guys,but they also have smart guys. Look at Ray Allen. The union leader Fisher seems put together. The players are not 100% controlling the lockout. They have Billy Hunter,and many others feeding them the numbers. I think should of had more backing to what he said.

  14. *Bill should of had more backing to what he said.

  15. Anonymous says:

    This has nothing to do with 'stupid'. Simmons called no one 'stupid'. The key is in the lack of education for most (but not all) of these players. These owners are owners because they have sound business/legal training and education. I don't care what color Kobe Bryant is, the fact remains that he didn't get a four-year degree in business or economics. Please stop taking Bill Simmons comments out of context.

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