Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert may have gone too far in a letter posted on the team’s Web site lambasting superstar LeBron James for choosing to leave Cleveland to join the Miami Heat.
But renown social activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson gave everyone another target when he suggested Gilbert’s letter personified a “slave master’s mentality.”
NBA commissioner David Stern fined the 48-year-old Cavs owner $100,000 for his statements, and said Gilbert may have been out of line, but indicated that Jackson was just as reckless with reactionary comments Characterizing the owner’s reaction as indicative of a “slave master’s mentality.”
“Equally imprudent, I believe, are the remarks by my good friend, Jesse Jackson, which purport to make this into a racial matter,” Stern said during a press conference. “And I find that to be however well meaning Jesse may be in the premises, on this one, as he rarely is, mistaken.”
Many who closely covered and reported on James’ decision to leave Cleveland, publicly agreed with Stern.
“There is not a scintilla of a racist hint of anything in his comments, and it’s a shame that line of questioning has to be addressed now because it’s ridiculous,” Dennis Manoloff of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer said during a televised discussion on ESPN. “Just the term ‘runaway slave,’ I don’t understand why it needed to be entered into this discussion.”
But Sirius Radio talk show host Bomani Jones said Jackson wasn’t calling Gilbert a racist. “Jesse Jackson said that Dan Gilbert sounded like a pimp that lost its best prostitute, which is the comparison that I made on my show,” he said during a televised debate.
“It’s not racist, but I ask you this question: Is there really a difference between a pimp and a slave owner? It is a discussion of a system and an attitude; it is not to say that Dan Gilbert is racist,” Jones said. “ instead, we turn this into a referendum on Jesse Jackson, which is a waste of all of our time, because he actually said some things worth hearing beneath that statement of which I have yet to see in its entirety.”
Jones said Jackson’s comments also raised another important issue that should be addressed.
“There’s this idea that fans and ownership seem to have, that these players owe them more loyalty than they give to the players on the other end,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest thing.”