As the city of Cleveland removes all traces of “King James” mania – posters, billboards, jerseys – civil rights legend Jesse Jackson has come to the 25-year-old basketball star’s defense.

In a statement, Jackson spoke harshly about Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, comparing him to a “slave master.”

In a statement posted on the Cavaliers’ Web site, Gilbert announced his displeasure with James’ decision to join the Miami Heat.

“As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier,” said Gilbert. “This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his ‘decision’ unlike anything ever ‘witnessed’ in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.”

However, Jackson said Gilbert’s harsh words and interviews slamming James’ decision have deeper social implications.

“He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality,” the Rainbow PUSH Coalition founder said. “He sees LeBron as a runaway slave.”

Jackson went on to say Jackson is “not a child, nor is he bound to play on Gilbert’s plantation and be demeaned.”