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Jeff Kessler apologizes for racial remark to David Stern

NBA Commissioner David Stern arrives for labor talks.

NBA Commissioner David Stern arrives for labor talks. (Oct. 10, 2011) Credit: AP

Before Wednesday's meeting began between the NBA and NBPA in Manhattan -- a last-ditch effort to reach an agreement on the current proposal before the league pulls it off the table at 5 p.m. -- union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler issued an apology for making a racially-charged statement about the owners in an interview with the Washington Post.

Kessler compared the owners' treatment of the players in collective bargaining to that of "plantation workers." A few weeks ago, HBO's Bryant Gumbel also made reference to Stern acting as a "modern-day plantation overseer."

"Kessler's agenda is always to inflame and not to make a deal," Stern replied in the Washington Post story. "Even if it means injecting race and thereby insulting his own clients . . . He has been the single most divisive force in our negotiations and it doesn't surprise me he would rant and not talk about specifics. Kessler's conduct is routinely despicable."

Hours before the meeting, Kessler, who was in attendance, released a statement of apology on Wednesday morning to ESPN.

"The comments that I made in The Washington Post took place in an interview late Monday after a very long day," Kessler said. "Looking back, the words that I used were inappropriate; I did not intend to offend. I was merely passionately advocating for the players. I intend to call Commissioner Stern and offer my apologies for the remarks. It is very important that there be no distractions now and that the parties try to make a deal to save the season."
 

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