Bryant Gumbel is at the stage of his career where he gives exactly zero you-know-whats about how he’s perceived or who not to tick off in the sports industry. That makes him a potentially delightful interview who can provide some tasty quotes, and that’s exactly what the Real Sports host did in a conversation with The Daily Beast published on Sunday.
The purpose for the interview was presumably to promote Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel‘s 20th anniversary show, which will debut Tuesday night (Dec. 22) on HBO. But Gumbel wasn’t interested in taking a victory lap so much as expressing some very definitive thoughts on how his show has covered the NFL and its player safety issues compared to other coverage seen on ESPN and CBS, both of whom are partnered with the league on TV rights.
ESPN, of course, has come under heavy scrutiny for its reporting on player concussions (pulling out of the League of Denial documentary with PBS, most notably) and the DeflateGate scandal. So much so that Gumbel tells the Daily Beast’s Robert Silverman that the inherent conflict of reporting on a corporate partner isn’t even worth discussing.
But more is expected from a news magazine such as 60 Minutes, which is likely why Gumbel aims more venom at the CBS institution, criticizing the program’s recent report on the NFL and safety against concussions.
“It was like a big wet kiss, to allow Roger Goodell to sit there and say ‘We care about player safety.’ Does it occur to you at some point to say, ‘Excuse me? If you cared so much, why as recently as two years ago, were you saying there was no link? As recently as two years ago, were you fighting in court spending zillions of dollars to make sure these guys don’t get anything?’
“I have all the respect in the world for 60 Minutes and for Steve Kroft. But when you sit there and watch something like that, you’re inclined to say, boy oh boy, it’s nothing more than a marketing plan.”
Obviously, Gumbel’s remarks are at least somewhat self-serving, intended to put Real Sports on a pedestal as a news program that won’t compromise in its investigation and scrutiny of the sports world. But he also laments that the show’s tough stance tends to scare off potential interview subjects and limit access.
Gumbel and Silverman talk about much more than the NFL and how it’s covered during their conversation. The veteran broadcaster and journalist has many other thoughts worth reading, notably on the dichotomy between those who watch professional football and the men who play it, non-payment of college athletes and how race is a fundamental part of that, and, of course, Donald Trump.