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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. Will - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    Does anyone see the irony? Jackson didn’t inject race into the issue. People reacting to Jackson did. JJ used an inflammatory analogy referencing slavery. So everyone immediately screams about “the race card.” But the point is actually race-neutral. It’s about the attitude of an employer/team owner vis-a-vis an employee/athlete, not about black & white.

  2. Larry - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    I read both Gilbert’s letter and Jackson’s letter, and here is my take.
    Gilbert is a loose lipped cry baby billionaire, but I didn’t catch anything in there that was racist.
    I agree with just about all of Jackson’s letter except the 2nd and 3rd paragraph. It’s too bad he had to pull race in. But I guess that is his thing.
    As for the issue of Lebron himself, I think his his statement during an interview along with Wade and Bosh sums up his problem. The interviewer asked him if it was true that he didn’t personally contact his former employer and inform them of his decision. Part of the statement he made in response was “I wanted it to be about me.”.
    I don’t have a problem with Lebron’s choice (going to the Heat), but I do have a problem with how he communicated that choice. It is obviously all about him and that perspective seems to have clouded his vision with regard to common courtesy. The way he acted reminded me of one of my kids junior high classmates who broke up with his girlfriend by having his friend do it for him rather than doing it himself. Ugh! Grow up Mr. James.
    Some say life is better spent when you live it for something bigger than yourself, otherwise in spite of accolades and physical riches you risk living a hollow, selfish life that will leave your sole empty. Only Lebron knows his own motivations, but from the outside he appears to be living for himself. That is his choice of course, but I find it very sad.

  3. regardless - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    Mr. Jackson is correct. The discourse Gilbert used was unacceptable.
    I think it is ridiculous that he is able to trash Lebron. Owners accusing players of being disloyal is ridiculous. If Lebron was injured or something happens to him, he would be traded in an instant. An owner should never accuse a player of being disloyal unless they are going to give him a 20 year contract at the max.

  4. Ichbabod Brown - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:42 PM

    This is absurd. For those not from N.E. Ohio professional sports are a part of civic pride and community. The community invests not just financially, but emotionally greatly in its teams and players. See Josh Cribb’s new contract and pay raise despite being under a 5 year contract for what the fans can help the players accomplish.
    There has always been hurt, dissappointment, and anger when one of its teams or players has left. That being said the way this happened was above and beyond all but the Browns being moved out (btw Art Modell is still the most hated villian in Cleveland Sports). The “ownership” being referenced is not of employer to employee let alone slave to master, but as a “home grown” member of and pride of the community leaving the community behind and completely disrespecting the community in the process.
    Coupled with among other things quitting for whatever reasons during the last playoff series (it was also reported he was out getting trashed in Chicago newspaper prior to a road loss btw), speaking to competitors about joining them while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers and representing its home City, and not giving notice in a proper and respectful manner has trashed LeBron James in N.E. Ohio. Mr. Gilbert’s letter was inappropriate, but very accuratelly representative of the feelings of a great many of people not just fans of NBA nor basketball, but the civic community itself.

  5. Kevin Blanks - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    jesse jackson is an idiot soon to hear from the other idiot al “I hate honkeys” sharpton what does race have to do with this Gilbert was mad because of the idiot billionaires hour long self promoting I love myself show!!!!Now idiot number 1 jumps in yessa masta sure nuff weeze gonna throw the race card owt there that poor billionaire black man boo freakin hoo eat some cream of wheat buckwheat and kiss my hairy white butt it’s sweaty!!!!! Geez eyesa haven’t been in the news in almost a month let me say something stupid pull the limo over you white cracker I have a dream I wish that was my line If only I could have been half as smart as Martin Luther King but I was only his bag BOY lebron james bites overpaid idiots who end up losing it all cause they still hang wit the homies in da hood lets shoot at eachother cause we be stupid

  6. john - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    Another washed up racial entrepreneur. Dan Gilbert is the “owner” of the Clevland Cavaliers, and he is right to express his feelings. Lebron is free to go to another NBA team.
    However, he dooped the city of Clevland into believing he was a home town guy.

  7. Jeff - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    Makes you wonder if LeBron knew this guy and that was why he wanted to leave. Wouldn’t you?
    Gilbert’s letter was not only racist but borderline criminal. If David Stern does nothing to discipline this guy something is wrong.
    Exactly who is going to come play in Cleveland? For a owner who has lost his mind in a personal attack on a free agent who chose to leave? Let me answer; No one.

  8. Matt - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:52 PM

    So I guess every white who employs a black and says anything the rev dosnt like is raceist??? Why??Is it because white people owned slaves?? Is it about a race owning slaves, Ever?? If so you might wnat to look at where most Blacks reference their heritage to–Africa. Then tell me if there isn’t slavery going on there. Blacks eslave blacks this very moment not whites and the black community never says anything about that??Hypocrites!What other countries entertainers,athletes,coaches are black?None that I can think of. Tiger American-Jayz-American-Lebron-American-There isnt another nation that blacks are more succesful than America. You enslave yourself by your own attitude Rev.Jackson

  9. mrs o - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    Thank you… and i agree, its a sport, its not the end of the world that Lebron James decided not to stay in Cleveland.. Lets lick the wounds like so many other times… Remember the Browns leaving town?
    Cleveland always seems to be left in the dark.. Angry? sure, upset sure. But, let me tell you this Lebron seems to be his own man,,, no one slave. He has class but he will never be the player Michael Jordan was, close but no cigar.
    As for all the hoot about slavery… lets face it folks it works on both sides of the road.. if you were white and in a black neighborhood, you would get your ass kicked and visa versa, think everyone in this country should concentrate on the other problems we are dealing with,,, to be honest I am glad he left.. too much is too much… Not a happy camper, then go… which he did, so lets see if the magic three can do some good in Miami.
    As for Gilbert,, yep should have taken a breath then spoke.. Jackson
    should have also taken a breath… then spoke.. Don’t see how racism enters into any of this. Lebron is black and all Cleveland loved him, white and black,,, he made lots of money, and made a decision,,, so lets just lick the wounds again and go on.. He was not a slave to anyone and he was not disloyal.. he did what he did, and its over.. Such children we have become.

  10. slavegirl - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    Wow… slave huh? How many slaves u know that make an EIGHT digit slaray per year? This dude, the Rev JJ, is such a media whore; he makes Linsay Lohan and Paris Hilton look antisocial. You want racist? This guy keeps the fires of racism always stoked.

  11. kee-lai - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    many good things i have said by myself, but it is not a good thing to say bad things and i must say, it is very sad today, yes? i hear these things that these people hath sayed and i say to them thusly: for whom there eez a reason, thar be a question, and to whom questions thar be answers, look no further, for thine is the silver platter that thou hast been delivered upon the gretest rind of all: FREEDOM! I say to you again: FREEDOM!

  12. Josh - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    I’m no fan of Jesse Jackson, but in this case he is absolutely right and this is a good point he makes. Forget that Ohio is the home of the Klan and all that, it doesn’t bear on this case. However, Gilberts ugly comments and infantile rage completely overlooked and disregarded that Lebron is a free agent, literally, and that the game was for Cleveland to woo/convince him to stay. To say that Lebron “personally betrayed” him is absurd. Obviously Lebron loved the Cleveland Cavaliers less and less, and Ohioans can just thank Gilbert for that, who was unable to mask his (apparently somewhat racial) distaste for Lebrons stardom and priviledge.

  13. Larry - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    Uh, no mention of slavery? Read the second paragraph dude:
    “His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave.”

  14. LeBron - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    It’s simple. Some people find it easier to put blame on others than on there own actions. Whether there Black or White. This whole argument is ridiculous. LBJ got bad advice and acted in a poor manner. Gilbert should have kept it to himself. There’s no race, no suppression, no plantation owners, no nothing. Jesse Jackson has and always will be about the headlines and stirring up controversy, once you realize that all his comments are meaningless.

  15. Houva - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:19 PM

    This may seem harsh to some, but Jesse Jackson is in reality a poverty pimp who has never held a real job. The reverend Jackson has also been a minister who failed miserably in that regard. Note, the out-of-wedlock child after committing adultery with a staffer and the often quoted negative remarks he continues to make. The latest of course being his comments about Caviler’s owner Dan Gilbert. Gilbert is pissed and as an employer who had paid an employee millions he has a right to be outraged about how James left. Although, I will remark that his comments were aggressive and over the top.
    I will admit though that at one time Reverend Jackson was very relevant to the Black community and the movement for human rights. He did really well in getting our airman back from the Middle East for example, and at other times when he fought and won justice for the disenfranchised. However, those days are long gone and he is now just a headline grabbing attention seeker. He plays the race card so much that he is helping to make legitimate racial discord irrelevant and that is truly sad. I have spoken to many, many people who wish that Reverend Jackson would just go away.
    Oh yeah! I am not some racist person. I am a college educated African-American professional who is now retired. I just needed to call this one like I see it.

  16. sean - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    first, james didn’t leave for less money. after state tax savings and when he signs his extension, he’ll be way in the green in miami.
    second, gilbert got emotionally carried away, as the writer of the article stated. he might be running a business, but his clientele were all on the street having heart attacks.
    third, if lebron loved the cavs less and less, why didn’t he say anything to management, such as how kobe did when he lit a fire under mitch kupchak’s ass to get a pau gasol? instead, lebron fronted his happiness and back dealt to leave while putting on a television show that ripped the hearts out of cleveland fans. that reeks of immaturity and egoism.

  17. JAY - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    Lost in all this negativity, is the amazing contributions that LeBron and his camp made to the Boys & Girls club:
    $2,500,000 raised from the Advertisers that night,
    $500,000 donated by the Univ. of Phoenix
    TOTAL = $3MIL from a 1 hour show! FOR KIDS!!
    thats what should be highlited and talked about on this site.
    how bout some Positivity for ONCE, just ONCE !

  18. Ichabod Brown - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    FYI, you’re thinking of Indiana not Ohio in regards to the Klan. Read my earlier post for some context of the emotions and events behind the Mr. Gilbert’s letter. In fact you’d be better to also read other articles detailing the events which led up to the letter for independent varification before coming to premature conclusions and painting with such a broad brush.

  19. Tony - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    Well he could have been respectful to all parties involved and donated the money himself. Hell, I bet the HEAT would have fronted it for him if he wanted. Get real. He spends that in a month believe me. Good thing he was in the Greenwhich CT Boys club because I hear there really hurting for cash there. Think it might of dawned on him to be in a poorer location? The way he did it was low class and that’s why everyone is negative.

  20. Ichaobd Brown - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    It wasn’t his money and it was in a self serving context and environment.

  21. sean - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    that is positive… but you don’t think team lebron felt that they had to do something like that to take away from the bite of lebron making this type of a televised announcement? i bet the thousands of cavs fans who are still looking for their hearts don’t care one iota.

  22. Tony - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:35 PM

    Having read most of the comments, I want to first thank everyone who wrote their opinions on this. At first I could not believe that James would leave. It is his choice. Dan Gilbert should not have written the letter, at least at that time. He should have waited until he was not as angry. LeBron should have done what every other free agent has done, just hold a press conference with the ream of his choice. Oh, by the way, he was free to sign with anyone. My question is, I apologize for sounding dumb but here goes, when owners decide that they do not want to pay players millions of dollars it is called colusion, but when players decide to all sign with one team and basically keep teams from signing anyone, it is not called colusion? As a business owner, can’t I decided if I want to pay minimun wage or something higher? As for the race thing, why can’t we just get past this? Someone wrote that this is 2010, there are good and bad people of every color, religion, and sexual orientation. Lets learn from the past and move on. Hate is wrong.
    Thank you for listening

  23. Jerry - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:37 PM

    I’m not sure this meets the standard of the white man “holding the black man down.”

  24. jon - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:43 PM

    f jackson is 100% racist.

  25. Lion Woods - Jul 12, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    Basically, Jesse Jackson probably has no business making Dan Gilbert’s comments his business to respond. But I will say the lack of action by David Stern and the NBA bigs to reprimand Mr. Gilbert is a little disturbing. Gilbert blasted LeBron and if you read his comments they are extremely compelling of a man scorn. I think Mr. Gilbert not only owes LeBron an apology but should be fined by the league for making such comments.

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