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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. readTheRealStory - Jul 12, 2010 at 2:35 AM

    You don’t know your basketball history. Riley didn’t become head coach of LAL until Magic’s 3rd year in the league. The year before LAL drafted Johnson, they lost to the eventually champions, the Seattle Supersonics (who were the defending Western Conference champs). Gotta love this revisionist history.

  2. Dave - Jul 12, 2010 at 2:53 AM

    Come on… it’s about race, it’s always about race with Jesse, he doesn’t know anything else… I can read, can you? “He sees LeBron as a runaway slave.”… or something like that… if that comment isn’t about race, then what is it about? Please…

  3. Kim - Jul 12, 2010 at 2:54 AM

    This defense of Gilbert and lashing at Jackson is either written by a whiteman, rRepublican or sell out afraid to leave his check. Gilbert did act like a slave owner and so did Cleveland. No one talked about the owner of the Colts or Michael Jordan when he went to the Washington Wizards or Kareem Jabbar when he went fron the Bucks to The Lakers this way. Are you going to tell me they are not ICONS? He is a free black business man that made a business decision. Do you think Gilbert felt bad firing the coach? If LeBron was not talented or a black man on his team that made him rich, he could care less. All of you guys are insecure racist and Jackson is right. Even a basketball player will bring out racism in your sick minds. Born insecure race of people that need heros like Tiger woulds, Lebron James and Obama for your no danncing, no talent boring lives. The best thing you guys do in life is hate abd criticize..

  4. Liz - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:03 AM

    Some white people are ill and odd. They are racist and always afraid when you acknowledge the truth with catch phrases like “N” word or “Race card” racism was created by white people and the whole world knows it, hangings, cross burning, plantations are white inventions. We were victimozed for 400 years by this demonic behavior and I believe 400 years is enough time for any black person to know, smell and discern when they hear racism and we do not need your white permission anymore that LeBron “Free Blackman” James needed permission from Ohio or Gilbert to move his family and take a better job. He knew Gilberts true feelings before he gave his decision. Gilbert should consider that his rant was confirmation to James that his decision was right. His name is Kunte!!! B—thes!!! Not Toby

  5. Anonymous - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:05 AM

    Typical cop-out: “I don’t need to do me some research to know…” In other words, you’re simply expressing your opinion, but have no facts to back up your argument, and don’t want to do the research.While Jackson could have used a different term, he’s not the originator. If you had desired to do some research you would have read about the court case involving Curt Flood (and other athletes during that period) and you would have seen see that the term slave plantation was used heavily. The “Reserve clause” is analogous to the concept that Gilbert is trying to play by talking about Loyalty. The demise of the reserve clause and the advent of free agency in MLB (around 1975) was influential in pro sports. Free agency in the NBA became a reality sometime between 1975 and 1980. Regardless, your impression that star athletes have to be loyal even though their contract has expired, because the owner is going to lose a lot of money, is the same position that Gilbert takes–which is why Jackson wrote the piece in the first place. Good night!

  6. thergultr - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:12 AM

    What Dan said was race related, slavery was based on economics. And economics is still used to enslave people in various ways even today. and in the bigger picture of economic slavery, I’m not talking about just black people.

  7. Liz - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:14 AM

    Ohio tried to Blackball LeBron while he was in High School because he was defeating white basketball teams and the white coaches complained. For 7 years he doubled the revenue of a team nobody ever heard of and gave them a eastern championship. To hate him for making a business decision is calling him a “Boy” and for Gilbert to have instant hate? That hate was always there and James knew it. We are just finding out what James it getting confirmation of and that is Gilbert never gave a damn about him personally. Gilbert fired a black coach and no one said a thing. Gilbert did not care that the coach gave his all and had a family to support, it was just business. Master Gilbert… Lebron is a free blackman and the President is black. Someone needs to give Ohio and white america a wake up pill. Oh… and Reagan died too. Massa Gilbert and plantation Ohio, can Lebron quit his job and take another job he likes better please? Chicken Goerge has been good to you massa. Cans I’s has my freedom papers?

  8. thergultr - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:20 AM

    Dans comment was racially based on economic slave principles. Slavery was created on economic slave principles. Even today people are suffering various forms of economic slavery, and i just don’t mean black people either!

  9. Montana - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:32 AM

    Yes, you are right, but he was around. nba changed the rules after lickers did that. And every licker move starting with chamberlain up to now should be questioned. Most people around the country are. Like the yankees, you bought and didn’t earn. nab is fixed anyway. Hey, how is that football team doing in little puerto rico(l.a.)?

  10. Montana - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:34 AM

    Yes, you are right, but he was around. nba changed the rules after lickers did that. And every licker move starting with chamberlain up to now should be questioned. Most people around the country are. Like the yankees, you bought and didn’t earn. nab is fixed anyway. Hey, how is that football team doing in little puerto rico(l.a.)?

  11. Arrive - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:44 AM

    It is laughable – mention the word “slavery” and suddenly it’s all about “race”. Please, stop being so GD sensitive, see the analogy to the NBS OWNERS – they are owners, after all. Jesse Jackson has always been a black activist, therefore, controversial. Why should he stop now, if he could stop now? Anyone who expects someone his age to change, who has spent his whole life in his cause, has got to buy some big-girl undies. LeBraun is a free agent, and he made a free choice, so let’s just live with it.

  12. davidly - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:48 AM

    Jackson was talking about Gilbert’s mentality on display, not how much money the players make. And that is the point really.
    Can’t we all see that something more is going on here than just a egomaniac going about his departure the wrong way? Could there be another reason why he did what he did?
    Gilbert’s rant was absurd; even those who sympathize with his position say so. But what does it tell us? By airing his true opinion about James’ having given up in the playoffs – he exposes his own hypocrisy at having wanted to keep him in Cleveland in the first place.
    But it is “in his place” where he wanted to keep him, despite his having given up on the team. Must we assume that James didn’t know how the owner felt, and that this in no way played a factor in how and when he announced his decision?
    Gilbert went so far as to say that James quit in Game 6. The guy played over 40 minutes in the game, and while he may have had almost as many turnovers as assists, for Gilbert to say he gave up in that game (he had 19 rebounds and a triple double!) makes him sound like he’s on the plantation sitting on his high horse.
    I’d say that the slave analogy is at least correct as far as the emotional dynamic is concerned. But it applies to both figures in the drama. Clearly James felt more than just “love” in Cleveland.

  13. reader - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:49 AM

    good response, best one i have read so far

  14. Gregorino - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:49 AM

    You’re the jackass!

  15. Gregorino - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:54 AM

    Gilbert is a total scumball and a racist! And i’m a white man saying this! I don’t often agree with Jesse Jackson, but i do this time.

  16. Herbert - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:57 AM

    Some white people are ill and odd. They are racist and always afraid when you acknowledge the truth by using catch phrases like “N” word or “Race card”. Racism was created by white people and the whole world knows it. Hangings, cross burnings, mob mentality, plantations are white inventions. We were victimized for 400 years by this demonic behavior and I believe 400 years is enough time for any black person to know, smell and discern when they hear racism. We do not need your white permission anymore than LeBron “Free Blackman” James needed permission from Ohio or Gilbert to move his family and take a better job. He knew Gilberts true feelings before he gave his decision. Gilbert should consider that his rant was confirmation to James and to logical people that his decision was right. His name is Kunte Kinte!!! B—thes!!! Not “Toby”! The coach that Gilbert fired gave his all too! He had a family to feed and was willing to stay but, Massa Gilbert fired him. Why no complaints about that? That’s business huh? Gilbert fired him because he wanted to win! The free from slavery blackman that Lincoln freed decided that if he had an injury or aged he would be worthless to Gilbert, just as the coach was and after playing basketball since high school, he wants a ring. Maybe even wanted to live in the sunshine and near palm tree’s instead of snow all his life. But, wait! “I’s need to ask Massa Gilbert and The Ohio Plantation if it’s alright with them. They gon burn my jersey and call me bad names. I love you Lebron gon be “we hate you ya bum” jus like that iffin I don’t stay on the plantation and finish up for massa Gilbert.

  17. Liz - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:09 AM

    Jump off the cowboys stadium? You want him to die for a comment? Really?

  18. WJW - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:11 AM

    Jackson’s words verbatim:
    “Mr. Dan Gilbert’s accusations, expressed in an open letter to LeBron James after his announcement that he will play next year’s NBA season for the Miami Heat, have legal and social implications for the league, its union and the character of LeBron James. By saying that he has gotten a free pass and that people have covered for him way too long, Gilbert suggests that LeBron has done something illegal or illicit.
    He 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.
    He must know the Curt Flood suit, which changed plantation rules and created free agency; and the Spencer Haywood suit that changed eligibility rules.
    If he believes that LeBron quit in games 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, then, why did he fire the coach? If he believes that LeBron intentionally quit, determining the outcome of those games, why did he pursue him and offer him and additional $120 million to stay in Cleveland?
    These accusations endanger LeBron. His jersey is being burned in effigy, and he is being projected as a betrayer by the owner.
    When players or coaches speak disrespectfully to or about referees, they are fined. If Mr. Gilbert cannot prove that LeBron changed games by quitting, he defames his character. He should have to face a challenge by the NBA and the players association. LeBron has every right to an apology.
    Other players cannot just watch this as if it is LeBron’s personal problem. This is an attack upon players in general.
    LeBron is not a child, nor is he bound to play on Gilbert’s plantation and be demeaned. He has been a model citizen and has inspired the children of Akron, Cleveland, the State of Ohio and the United States.
    He has conducted camps for children, helped to win a gold medal for our nation and his public deportment has been excellent.
    Mr. Gilbert’s statement is mean, arrogant and presumptuous.
    I hope that LeBron will speak up and speak out clearly and forcefully.”

  19. Jones - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:21 AM

    Just because they do not “openly” have rallies stating the hate for blacks or burn crosses like back in the day, doesn’t mean racism doesn’t exist. Look at the number of minorities in prison, the AZ immigration laws, high unemployment rate for minorities, the Tea Party Movement, the “we need to take back our country” comments and many more. Some white people think that just because they are not saying they hate black people that racism doesn’t exist when they really think that blacks are inferior to them, as in Gilberts case. Now, Byron Scott has to deal with that crap up there when they won’t be able to recruit any good players other than draft picks.

  20. cuzzenbud - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:32 AM

    If you guys thought Reggie was over the top, wait until the good Rev. Al adds his two cents to the equation! We all know he’s not one to stand for being out shined by Reggie. The circus is just getting started………..

  21. davidly - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:43 AM

    That you confuse the man who watch MLK die with Mister October is telling enough.

  22. cuzzenbud - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:44 AM

    Jones, you need to stop jonesing because racism has nothing to do with the rant Dan Gilbert made towards Lebron. Reggie Jackson and Al Sharpton are nothing more than opportunists who play the race card way too much.

  23. j - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:54 AM

    liz you’re the freakin racist

  24. cuzzenbud - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:56 AM

    Being that you are so petty to point out a minor misspelling of a name when you clearly know which Jesse I’m talking about, is telling enough about you!

  25. meatcutter - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:57 AM

    Let the good reverand preach love, forgiveness, hope understanding and the hope of eternal life and leave the rest to the works of the devil. He doesn’t really need any help from Jackson.

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