Magic Johnson: Is Stern racist? 'Ridiculous'

528902.jpg

Magic Johnson: Is Stern racist? 'Ridiculous'

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Magic Johnson said it's "ridiculous" to suggest that David Stern is racist, saying it's OK to disagree with the NBA commissioner but that you "can't attack the man and what he stands for." Johnson was responding to comments made by attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the NBA players' association, who told the Washington Post that owners are treating players like "plantation workers" during the ongoing lockout. That was similar to the comments Bryant Gumbel made last month on his HBO show, when he said Stern "always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer treating NBA men as if they were his boys." But Johnson said Stern has always done right by players, noting the number of blacks such himself, Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas who have followed their Hall of Fame playing careers by going into management or ownership positions. "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 make sure minorities had high-ranking positions from the league office all the way down to coaches and front office people." Stern did not comment, though told the Washington Post that Kessler's conduct "is routinely despicable." However, players such as Johnson and Bill Russell called the league office to support Stern, who is leading owners in a bitter dispute with the players but who has not lost their support, according to Johnson. "It was David Stern who took this league worldwide. And so those guys know it was because of David Stern and what he was able to do," Johnson said. Johnson recalled it was Stern who offered him a place in the 1992 NBA All-Star game, even over some players' wishes after he had retired the previous November because of HIV. And it was Stern who included Johnson that summer on the Dream Team that won the Olympic gold medal. And it was Stern, he said, who called him after Johnson's comments about Thomas in his book ignited a public feud between the longtime friends, urging Johnson to work it out. "He has always done what's right for both the players and owners. I'm going to have to say this personally, David, he didn't have to do that. That's the type of commissioner he is. "He always is looking out for the players and what's best for the league and I disagree with anybody who says he's trying to be a plantation owner. It's ridiculous we're even talking about it." Stern, 69, is likely nearing his final years on the job after becoming commissioner on Feb. 1, 1984, just as Johnson and Larry Bird were renewing the longtime rivalry between the Lakers and Boston Celtics. Johnson said he's "tired of people taking shots" at Stern, especially because so many of them have jobs connected to the NBA that Stern created. So Johnson urged those criticizing Stern during the lockout to "not go to the gutter." "We should be saluting him, he shouldn't be torn down, especially something that he's not," Johnson said. "He's a tough business man and a smart business man. That's what he's supposed to be."

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

james-franklin-1207.jpg
USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead