The job status of Bryant Gumbel, scheduled to be the play-by-play broadcaster on the eight late-season games on the NFL’s in-house network, could be the subject of a discussion by NFL officials after Gumbel’s suggestion that Paul Tagliabue show his successor “where he keeps Gene Upshaw’s leash.”
Tagliabue said Monday that incoming commissioner Roger Goodell and Steve Bornstein, who runs the NFL Network, will discuss the remarks after Goodell takes office Sept. 1.
Gumbel addressed his closing remarks on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” last Tuesday to Goodell.
“Before he cleans out his office,” Gumbel said. “Have Paul Tagliabue show you where he keeps Gene Upshaw’s leash. By making the docile head of the players union his personal pet, your predecessor has kept the peace without giving players the kind of guarantees other pros take for granted. Try to make sure no one competent ever replaces Upshaw on your watch.”
Tagliabue’s response: “What Gumbel said about Gene Upshaw (above) and our owners is about as irresponsible as anything I’ve heard in a long time.”
Upshaw did not immediately return a call placed by The Associated Press.
If Gumbel’s remarks about Upshaw were really “as irresponsible” as anything Tags has heard in a long time, perhaps he’s somehow managed to ignore the mounting criticism the NFLPA head has received from union members with household names, as well as from those less celebrated.
As recently as last March, Tagliabue’s tenure as commissioner was praised by Fox Sports’ John Czarnecki, who wrote,
Pete Rozelle made the NFL the most popular sport in television history, but Tagliabue made sure that the networks paid dearly for his product and that is his legacy. That, and convincing Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, to accept labor deals that until this most recent one were generally extremely favorable to NFL owners.
Gumbel’s remarks were unusual only in that they weren’t the sort of thing you ordinarily hear from a guy who is about to start calling games for the NFL in a few months. But there was nothing particularly new about the allegations.