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Jesse Jackson compares Dan Gilbert's LeBron rant to slavery. Just when you thought that story couldn't get crazier.

Jul 11, 2010, 10:48 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for ljames_points.jpgJesse Jackson went off the deep end today. I have no other way to describe this commentary on the Rainbow Push Website.

“(Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert) speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave. This is an owner employee relationship — between business partners — and LeBron honored his contract.”

A slave that makes $15 million a year?

Neither Dan Gilbert nor the Cavaliers have commented. Probably best they don’t. Take the high road this time.

Jackson suggests that Dan Gilbert thinks LeBron did something “illegal or illicit.” Jackson makes some valid points about the importance and role of free agency in sports.

Jackson also misses the point. He misses the emotional connection with players and teams that fans have. That owers have, too. Gilbert’s reaction was not that of someone who thought the system was the problem (although there are whispers of collusion). 

Gilbert lost it, and he certainly felt betrayed. But these struck me more as the feelings at the end of a bad breakup relationship. Gilbert — and the entire city of Cleveland — had been emotionally invested in James. They saw him as one of their own. They cared — they cared more than Miami (television ratings for the James egofest television show were double in Cleveland what they were in Miami).

And they got their hearts ripped out. And Gilbert lashed out, expressing what a lot of people were thinking in his city.

But to make the leap from there to Gilbert the slave owner takes some mental gymnastics. Unrealistic mental gymnastics.

This was about championships and money and emotions. It was not about slavery or the system.

365 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. JesseH75 - Jul 11, 2010 at 11:01 PM

    This Is Coming From A Guy Who Wanted To Cut The Presidents Nuts Off

  2. Silk32 - Jul 11, 2010 at 11:20 PM

    INTERPRETATION: This is what Dan Gilbert meant to say in his open letter

  3. jAY - Jul 11, 2010 at 11:34 PM

    Some idiot always has to bring race into the equation. What a jacka@@

  4. Bobulated - Jul 11, 2010 at 11:37 PM

    Rev. Al won’t be far behind if the cameras are out…

  5. Kevin - Jul 11, 2010 at 11:42 PM

    I’m assuming the author of this article isn’t Black. For Blacks, Gilbert’s comments do strike a racist tone. If Lebron didn’t choose what Gilbert wanted for him, then he publicly rips Lebron and criticizes him for being disloyal. Also, he alludes that he might expose some of Lebron’s “dirty” secrets. Read some slave history books that depict slave masters’ treatment of slaves whom they perceived as being “too uppity” and tell me you don’t see the similarities. In essence, Gilbert is threatening to destroy his character (i.e., symbolically lynch him.) Gilbert needs to accept the fact that people were paying money to see Lebron when he was in Cleveland, and he is responsible for Lebron’s leaving. Since Lebron left for less money than he could have gotten by staying, he shows that money wasn’t the issue and Gilbert was misguided.

  6. mbronner - Jul 11, 2010 at 11:58 PM

    Jesse Jackson’s under-the-breath racist comments have repeatedly cut his own nuts off. With his own form of bigotry and vulgarity, I would like to know if he still calls himself Reverend. I don’t think he should turn to comedy, however, because although he has become a joke, the joke keeps getting longer and longer………..and less and less funny.

  7. Jonathan - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:00 AM

    That’s absolutely ridiculous. I am a black man and I didn’t see race in this situation at all. I think it’s a stupid notion to compare this to slavery. Gilbert was upset and understandably so. His business just lost everything based on one man’s decision. He’s no longer in business with Lebron so there’s no need to hold back. He wanted to show the fans that he felt just like them. I’m sure he would’ve acted the same if Lebron was white. It’s the situation, not the color of somebody’s skin. He wouldn’t say things like that about any other black player.

  8. Gina Kyle - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:04 AM

    Jesse Jackson is clearly entitled to his opinion, but one thing is clear. Mr. Gilbert should have kept his mouth closed until some of his anger diffused enough for him to speak intelligently. He and Lebron were not friends. Lebron was an employee, highly paid but an employee none the less. Employers make decisions on whether to keep employees every day. Employees have the right to decide where they want to work. Mr. Gilbert should look in the mirror for someone to blame for maintaining an environment that made his employee decide that its better if he works somewhere else. And those emotionally charged people of Cleveland should take their anger out on Mr. Gilbert, not Lebron!

  9. ANL - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:04 AM

    Gilbert’s comments were over the top, histrionic and immature. He was foolish to expect LeBron to act out loyalty to his hometown team. And he (as well as Cleveland) need to let it go.
    And let’s be honest now, LeBron certainly knew that he was going elsewhere. He likely knew this before the free agency circus began. He could have handled things with greater tact.
    Having said that, it is ABSOLUTELY ridiculous to suggest that Gilbert’s message struck a racist tome. Don’t we have enough problems?

  10. scot - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:06 AM

    Are for real ??? If LeBron were white. do you think Gilbert would have patted him on the back and wished him well. Hell NO !!
    I am so sick of this racist B.S. . Grow up already, it’s 2010.
    Racism is still alive because of people like you. Gilbert is not responsible for him leaving…LeBron is!! You would have to be a fool not to want to go and play with D. Wade and Bosh. The only fault of Gilberts is he didn’t sign anyone else to give the Cav’s a legitimate chance to win championships. It’s about winning not skin color !!

  11. Dennis Wilson - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:07 AM

    The Owner of this team forgot one thing….. It’s a business and as far as business’s go, deals are made, partners come and go, and noone stays in one place forever. Every player wants to win a ring doesn’t matter the sport, and with that having been said, players go where the feel they have the best chance to achieve that goal. Had the pieces been there Lebron probably would have stayed. If you had the chance to win a ring, would you leave or would YOU say this is my home and I will stay right here. Money was not the issue, the RING is the issue, and everybody wants one.

  12. Anonymous - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:07 AM


  13. scot - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:08 AM

    Are for real ??? If LeBron were white. do you think Gilbert would have patted him on the back and wished him well. Hell NO !!
    I am so sick of this racist B.S. . Grow up already, it’s 2010.
    Racism is still alive because of people like you. Gilbert is not responsible for him leaving…LeBron is!! You would have to be a fool not to want to go and play with D. Wade and Bosh. The only fault of Gilberts is he didn’t sign anyone else to give the Cav’s a legitimate chance to win championships. It’s about winning not skin color !!

  14. Kevin 2 - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:08 AM

    Please don’t try to speak for the rest of us and put words into our mouths. The letter only has a “racist tone” if you are trying to find one. Media whores searching for publicity and ways to become a victim are the racists in this case (insert Jesse’s name here). Face the facts….Jesse and Al,and many others(black/white/latin/oriental/etc.), are as racist as the racists they “preach” about and condemn. This type of person is exactly why race relations are stagnant. Neither one deserves to have the title of “Reverend” in front of their names. In this situation there is no similarity to slavery in ANY sense of the word. Get over it…slavery is dead (except for those who choose to remain in the past), and only those that feel they are owed something or are looking for pity keep beating that dead horse. Don’t defend Jesse…it only encourages him. Loyalty and betrayal in sports have nothing to do with race. Gilbert was obviously very upset with Lebron’s decision (whether you feel it was right or wrong) and vented his feelings (albeit in a less that tactful way)in a public(?)letter. The deal is done….move on

  15. jon re - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:16 AM

    you are obviously a white supremest/racist. That you have made perfectly clear. Everything else, though, was just clouding the issue. What gives Jesse Jackson the right to give his opinion? I would bet money that the owner never told his side of the story to Jesse Jackson.
    In any case, we are experiencing the open hatred of a race of people rather than judging people as individuals, such as Jesse Jackson.

  16. readTheRealStory - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:22 AM

    The full release is available from the Rainbow Push website ( Jackson’s piece is really about free agency and his perception of how Dan Gilbert sees it. Kurt Heim didn’t properly research what Jackson said; instead he chooses to keep the flames of controversy going by failing to tell the whole story.
    In a nutshell, Jackson asserts that Gilbert seems to have a view that the “reserve clause” is still in effect, and that unrestricted free agency doesn’t apply.
    The reserve clause bound a player to his team for as long as the team, not the player, desired. Even after the contract itself expired, a player remained tied to the team. He could be traded, sold, or released, but the player himself could not initiate any moves on his own. This is what Jesse Jackson is referring to as the slave plantation mentality.
    Slavery is not about getting paid; its about control. Study slavery from a globally history perspective, and one will discovery that many slaves were actually compensated, but they were under the control of the slave owner.
    For Gilbert to assert that Lebron James betrayed the Cavs is complete folly. James honored his contract, which expired at 23:59:59 on 6/30/10. Immediately thereafter, he became an unrestricted free agent, free to do whatever he decided to do. I’m a Cavs fan who is saddened that one of the best players in the NBA will be playing else. But I also know that neither Gilbert, Cavs fans, nor the city of Cleveland own Lebron James.
    That is essentially what Jesse Jackson was saying.

  17. Patrick - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:24 AM

    Why the hell do we care what Jesse Jackson thinks…
    Haven’t seen him down at the gulf coast offering to help there.
    Jesse is a racist-period. LeBron left, Gilbert was pissed, so what. How much longer do we need to hear about LeBron
    Let’s focus on the war and the men and women making hardly anything, walking patrol tonight so that LeBron, Gilbert, and yes, Jesse can say or do anything they please. Jesus Christ, I want to puck

  18. Mike - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:25 AM

    Sorry Kevin, I’m black and you don’t speak for me. I saw nothing racist in Dan Gilbert’s letter. The man was upset, and should’ve calmed down before publishing his letter, but that’s all.

  19. Rodney - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:25 AM

    You are insane and out of it!

  20. DMAPP - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:26 AM

    Lebron made the choice to leave and this was his choice, so everyone else should shut his/her mouth and keep it moving. People leave jobs daily for whatever reason, so what is all the talk about. The man did his job well, he chose to leave so we might as well keep all negative thoughts to ourselves. He did a lot for the team and now he felt that it was time to move on, and he did. Case closed, end of story.

  21. L.A. - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:27 AM

    It seems that you must not be a black man. It takes another kind of individual to be so dismissive of Gilbert’s statements. I haven’t been party to this much “slave mentality amnesia” in a long while. Stop worshipping people & realize a great ball player made a great decision to go win titles instead of make more money for an owner who just showed that he has more ego than work ethic & dedication to the trades he should have made to give Cleveland a real shot!

  22. bull'sfan in MA - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:30 AM

    People who are looking to interject race into issues can easily see Jesse Jackson’s point of view. The fact that David Stern did not slap a fine on Gilbert has allowed this to reach this point.One can argue that any NBA player would have been quickly fined for such a verbal assault on an owner’s character. Gilbert’s unprofessionalism is unprecedented and I do not recall any white or black athlete being attacked like this for exercising his legal contractual rights as a free agent. Stern should step in and levy a hefty fine on Gilbert and silence critics like Jesse/though it may be too late.

  23. Anonymous - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:31 AM

    Gina, if James were AT ALL considerate of his “employer,” AND if he were at ALL CONSIDERATE PERIOD

  24. Karla - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:33 AM

    Mr Gilbert should have thought before he posted the letter.
    LeBron James should have let the Cavs know before he made the statement on Live TV He was with them for 7 years and to hear him talk he had nothing but praise for everyone. Why would you not have the courtesy to explain. It is clear that he knew well before hand. All of that with the decision IMO was not worth it in the end.
    Jesse Jackson is entitled to his opinion but like Mr Gilbert he too should have thought before he spoke.

  25. Anthony - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:36 AM

    Wow! How come I never hear this kind of talk in my presence? It would be fun to run across you in a Do JO so we could work out your racist issues man to man. Fortunately, I am as intellectual endowed as I am physically. That said, It is obvious that LeBron made the right decision… just listen to all of you backstabbers talking down the guy you built up just a few days ago. You sound like the type that would take advantage of a woman just because she wore a nice skirt & you took her to dinner. That entitled rage is why your kind is antiquated. This man brought his mentality to your city & all of you profited from his work ethic & loyalty. Houston lost it’s pro football team for being the same way, fair weather & fruitless! Make your own history & glory… LeBron only owes God, not you or I.

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