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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 EST

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. Melanie - Jul 19, 2010 at 8:54 PM

    “A slave that makes $15 million a year?”
    Yes, actually. I understand what Jackson was saying, and I saw a strange mentality in that ‘letter’ the team owner wrote…it’s as if he felt entitled to a human being. As if business was not at stake, not even personal feelings,as the mainstream media likes to charge, but instead like someone decided they could take away his favority play toy, or slave in this analogy.
    A lot of the professional do have a slave-like mentality, despite the heft price tags. They are predominantly Black athletes being employed by White owners, completely for their physical prowess, and at the end of the day they are basically owned and operated by the team who goes on to make tremendous profits from the Black’s contribution.
    An argument against the slavery characterization would be hockey, which obviously has predominantly White athletes with White ownership. However, if all or 95% of Hockey ownership was African American, I guarantee it would take on a different subset of emotions.

  2. Melanie - Jul 19, 2010 at 9:02 PM

    “A slave that makes $15 million a year?”
    Um, Yes, actually. I understand what Jackson was saying, and I saw a strange mentality in that ‘letter’ the team owner wrote-It was as if he felt entitled to a human being, As if business was not at stake. It didn’t strike me as being about personal feelings,as the mainstream media likes to charge, as much as akin to someone taking away his favorite toy, or slave in this analogy. the way Gilbert reacted, it was as if Lebron ‘dared’ to go against him and the rules established. How dare he think that much of himself to broker his own way?
    A lot of the professional sports do have a chattel slave-like mentality, despite the hefty salaries doled out. They are predominantly Black athletes being employed by White owners, completely for their physical prowess, and at the end of the day they are basically owned and operated by the team who goes on to make tremendous profits from the Black’s contribution. If that doesn’t have some ties to chattel slavery as we came to know it in this country, you are deluded. The money makes it a great job, but in the hierachies of many of the leagues exists a slave-like mentality between White executives and predominantly Black athletes.
    An argument against the slavery characterization would be hockey, which obviously has predominantly White athletes with White ownership. However, if all or 95% of Hockey ownership was African American, I guarantee it would take on a different subset of emotions.

  3. LEO JOHNSON - Jul 22, 2010 at 10:34 PM

    AMAN AND AMAN I AM A BLACK MAN,JUST WANT TO LET YOU KNOW AND I AGREE 100% WITH WHAT U SAID, I SAID IT MYSELF , BEFORE REV.JACKSON, SAID IT AM 51YRS OLD ALMOST, I SEEN “ROOT” AND SEEN SPEICAL THAT THEY HAVE ON THE HISTORY CHANNEL.AND IF ANY ONE KNOW ABOUT AMERICAN HISTORY , U WOULD SEE THE WAY THE OWNER OF CLEVELAND TEAM ACTED WAS CRAZY!BASKETBALL IS A SPORT AND A BUSINESS ,AND THE BUSINESS WAS U PAY ME AND I PLAY FOR YOU , BUT NOW MY CONTACT IS UP, AND I DECIDE TO GO SOME WHERE EITHER TO PLAY, SO WHY MR. MEN ARE U GETTING SO MAD, THAT I’M GOING SOMEWHERE ELSE.BECAUSE THE OWNER WAS GOING TO LOSE MONEY IF LEBRON LEFT.AND THE CITY AND HOTEL, BAR, ETC.AND ALL THEM PLACE,WILL PEOPLE WILL NOT COME TO SEE A BAD TEAM PLAY BALL , AM.. I RIGHT, GIVE ME; “FIVE”!

  4. Everett Rupert - Jul 22, 2010 at 10:44 PM

    Many people seem to be upsett by Jesse Jackson’s commentary on Dan Gilbert’s outrageous tirade against Lebron; it’s not the fact that he made $15m per year, but in a country that is more willing to confront gay issues that it is to deal with racial diferences, it did sound as if Gilbert thought he owned the man, not the contract.

  5. Scott - Jul 28, 2010 at 9:39 AM

    You mean like idiots who always try to pretend there is never anything racially going on, you know, absolutely nothing of that sort, give me a break! There is always eighther this great denial or search for some reverse racism when certain groups are confronted with what actually has been done and remains in the American psyche. You’ll note there is never never any acceptance of any responsibility. It must be really awful living with a conscience that reminds one of their nature and tendicies.

  6. Scott - Jul 28, 2010 at 9:51 AM

    Problem most guys like you as it concerns Sharpton or Jackson is that you don’t realize that these men recognize the “Face of Racism” in ways that people like you will always be in denial about because they have come in contact with it so much. It’s unfortunate that whenever you mention race there always this awful denial and never will you find someone man or woman enough to come out and acknowledge fully (not half-heartedly) the fact that it is what it is. You would believe if you didn’t know better that these liars would have you think that Slavery actually never happened.

  7. Scott - Jul 28, 2010 at 10:23 AM

    This to me is the larger point. Had LeBron been white he would have been given the respect of having made a wise decision based on his career and they would have commended him for having the courage for having done so. This is the point; give the man respect for being mature enough to know how to direct his future. He has exhausted his contract he fulfilled his agreements now who the heck does he owe, he’s not and endentured servant he’s perfectly free to do what the heck he pleases without being made to have any remorse. What people are tripping out over is this black man had enough business savvy to really know what he wants to do without Charlie having to lead him by the hand like a child. LeBron didn’t need to be blasted the way he did for having just made a decision to move on. I think Jackson was right-on in his observation of the facts. Remember Jackson out of many years of personal confrontation recognizes the face of racism as does Sharpton in ways that most people just let slip by until it rears it’s head in a more uglier form then they want to go off! Man LeBron gave the Cavaliers, and Cleveland as much if not more than they gave him, it was all business. No one was all that much in love with LeBron as much as they loved what LeBron could do for them. How many broke black and untalented brothers are out there that Cleveland and the Cavaliers could care less about huh. How bout you and me marching up to the Cavs front office and try to make them believe we can help their team and Cleveland for a couple million dollars huh. Come on man get real!

  8. Scott - Jul 28, 2010 at 10:31 AM

    Talking about cutting off someones nuts and recognizing racial undertones is like talking apples and organges, one doesn’t cancel out the other. If you want to deal with Jackson’s remarks about that dichotomy then go ahead, but whats at issue here is the racial thing and I believe he’s right-on!

  9. Scott - Jul 28, 2010 at 10:43 AM

    It’s not the cameras buddy it’s the causes for which he is an activist. I’m sure Sharpton has seen enough cameras in his day to not be infatuated with them but for the causes he support he should be out there. Both Jackson and Sharpton support simular causes why wouldn’t Sharpton be out there as well, makes common sense to me how about you!

  10. arlisa williams - Jul 30, 2010 at 9:37 AM

    This is the best comment i have read since the lebron fiasco.cleveland needs fo move on,he owes this city nothing,he has given enough and more.plus he is from akron not the city of cleveland.Dan Gilbert has made a ton of money off this athlete oh and i forgot the city too,so get over it.if anybody the trader the city of cleveland is.The reason why is you did not support the player who took the cavs two the playoff numerous times and plus he put this city on the map,so if anybody needs to recieve a disrespectful letter it is Dan Gilbert.

  11. usure - Aug 3, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    Gina, Gina, Gina. How can you say Jesse is intitled to his free speech and Gilbert isn’t. Who is the Racist??

  12. Pete - Aug 3, 2010 at 11:15 PM

    Would it had been racist if Gilbert was black?

  13. AKROWDY - Aug 4, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    You will see a relationship in anything if you go looking deep enough. This comparison is absurd. Barack Obama’s nationalization of the health care plan resembles Hitler’s Nazi regime, but you don’t see Jewish people complaining about that and bringing up that comparison. I am an African American, and I think that this is just an attempt by a B-list celebrity to reclaim the spotlight. Pathetic.

  14. nightattheopera - Oct 15, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    Jesse Jackson is the face of racism, he promotes it, he spews it, and he instigates it. He just needs to shut his racist mouth and quit trying to stir things up. Gilbert was just voicing the opinion of a lot of Cleveland fans and how they feel betrayed about LeBron leaving after all these years. The Cleveland fans supported LeBron when he was in Cleveland and almost all of them do now, now that he is in Miami. The fans just didn’t want to see him go. We loved LeBron and we still do.

  15. pinkfloyd69 - Nov 8, 2010 at 7:19 PM

    Racism is what has completely destroyed this country. If we would all love each other, then maybe we wouldn’t be the stupidest people in the world. This is why china will be the next great country, and why this country is broke, poor. full of #@$%, and will be taken over by someone who will be able to control us by any means. People just don;t get it anymore. Americas baseball, basketball and football is taking such a huge hit now with fans, moneys, and other considerations. Soccer is definetly taking over and there is not a thing we can do about it. So, when the fans stop showing up and stop watching on tv, what will we do?

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