As most of you know, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote a scathing open letter (which I've linked to below) lambasting superstar LeBron James for deciding to play for the Miami Heat next season. On July 12, the Rev. Jesse Jackson criticized Gilbert for his comments. In addition to calling Gilbert's remarks "mean, arrogant, and presumptuous", Jackson also said the following:
"He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers," the reverend said in a release from his Chicago-based civil rights group, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. "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."
Jackson also called Gilbert's comments an attack on all NBA players and said the owner should face a "challenge" from the league and the players' association.
When I first heard Jesse's comments, I was like, "what the hell is he talking about?!" The "slave owner/runaway slave" analogy is not only an insult to those who suffered and died as a result of slavery, but it unnecessarily injected race into the discussion. As I've said on this blog and in everyday conversations, an issue involving people of different races does not make the issue racial.
Ask yourselves these questions:
1. Do you think Dan Gilbert would have made the same comments if LeBron James was white?
2. Do you believe Jesse Jackson would have used the "slave master/runaway slave" analogy if Dan Gilbert were black or if LeBron James was white?
My answers to those questions are yes and no, respectively.
Regardless of one's feelings about Jesse Jackson, I think it's hard to deny that he has done some positive things when it comes to race and politics. However, his comments on the LeBron/Dan Gilbert situation seem like a pathetic bid to stay relevant in a constantly evolving racial/social/political climate. He's definitely got people talking about him again. The question is, at what cost?
Dan Gilbert's open letter: