Why Jesse Jackson is Wrong Bringing Race Into LeBron’s Decision | Robert Littal Presents BlackSportsOnline
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Why Jesse Jackson is Wrong Bringing Race Into LeBron’s Decision

by Robert Littal | Posted on Monday, July 12th, 2010
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“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.” Jesse Jackson on Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert.

Racism exists.

It shouldn’t be ignored and when it presents itself, it should be acknowledged.

We have come a long way in race relations, but we still have a long way to go.  I still get funny looks in certain stores, people still lock car doors when I was walk by, people still tell me I “speak well” as if that is unusual for a black man in our society, and those are only a few things that I deal with on a daily basis.

That is why when someone brings race into a situation we shouldn’t take it lightly, because it is a serious issue, and if it is being used in non-serious situations it devalues the argument when it really applies.

When Jesse Jackson uses terms like “Slaves” and  “Slave Master” in regard to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, it is the slap in the face of those who struggled to make it possible for a black man to sign a $100+ million contract.

The facts are clear.

Dan Gilbert owns the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James was his prized employee, and like many employees who excelled in what they do, LeBron was afforded certain privileges.  In return, he was paid handsomely and Gilbert reaped the benefits of that financially.

When LeBron’s contract was up he decided to take his “talents” elsewhere, and Gilbert, realizing the money he was about to lose, lashed out angrily (in creative font).  For seven years Gilbert gave his “employee” whatever he wanted and whatever his friends wanted.  He mistakenly thought those privileges bought him loyalty, but this is a “business” and there is no loyalty in business dealings.

Gilbert’s reactions are much more like a lover scorned than a “Slave Master.”

Last time I checked, slaves didn’t have options.  Slaves weren’t allowed to become “Free Agents.” Slaves didn’t get hourlong specials on ESPN.  Slaves didn’t make more money than some 3rd world countries.

Do you know what happened to “Runaway Slaves” if they got caught?  Let me just say they had to worry about more than an angry letter, some Delonte West jokes, and being booed at Carmelo’s wedding.

I understand Jackson is using the terms “slave” and “slave master mentality” as an analogy, but some words are not to be played with.

When Mel Gibson told his girlfriend she was dressed like she wanted to be raped by a “pack of n*ggers,” he was using an analogy, too.

Some words carry more power than others, so you need to be careful when you leisurely throw them around.  There is a big difference between a “pack of n*ggers” and a “pack of thugs,” and “Slaves” and “Employees”.

LeBron James is a basketball player.

To even compare him to a slave is ignorant, self serving, and blasphemous on Jesse Jackson’s part.  As a person who was right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, to even interject himself in a discussion about NBA Free Agency is just attention whoring at the highest level.

This so-called “slave” had billionaire owners coming to his “house” to present their “partnership offers.” The pitch to this so-called “slave” had more to do with business than basketball.  When this so-called “slave” was too busy to meet with the so-called “slave masters” of the NBA, he dismissed them and let them talk to his crew.  Billboards, videos, Powerpoints, lapdances … all were thrown at the feet of this so-called “slave.” This so-called “slave” controlled and manipulated the entire free agent process like a King on his Throne, to the point that millions tuned in to an hourlong “Decision” that was produced worse than “Cool as Ice.”

So excuse me if I am not crying “Tebow Tears” or using pathetic analogies for attention like Jesse Jackson, because Dan Gilbert wrote a “Single White Female” letter (no pun intended).

When we have people getting less time for killing unarmed black men than a black man shooting himself, I think Jesse’s time and energy can be spent better.

As I said on Twitter, the only color Dan Gilbert is concerned with is “Green,” and by trying to make it a black and white issue it only takes our focus away from the real problems in the black community.  Problems that go far beyond a billionaire’s lover’s quarrel with his former millionaire employee.

If Slaves only had it so lucky.

About the Author

Founder of BlackSportsOnline and BonaFide Media. @BlackSportsOnline. Email Robert

Displaying 38 Comments
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  1. Daremy Butler says:

    Rev. Jackson IS NOT the first person to compare Black pro athletes to enslaved Africans. There's the book, Forty Million Dollar Slaves by William Rhoden, the saying the ball field is close to the cotton field coined by Dr. Claud Anderson, and the comparison between the NFL Combine where Black men are paraded in tights in front of NFL team scouts and they are pushed and proded and subject to intelligence tests (the Wonderlic exam) and the slave auction market.

    It's the ownership/paternalism that drips from Gilbert's letter. And, unfortunately many whites have this same attitude regarding Black people. LeBron fulfilled his contractual obligations to the Cavs and he decided to move on. End of story.

    I believe the Cavs were valued either at $125 million or $175 million before LeBron and after LeBron the Cavs are worth around $400 million. Ok, who got over on who? The Cavs didn't pay LeBron over $200 million. No, that money is in Gilbert's pockets.

    And, people either forget or don't know that Rev. Jackson was a part of the first wave of Black athletes to play sports (in his case football) at a majority white institution, the University of Illinois. Rev. Jackson would later leave the University of Illinois and transfer to North Carolina A & T. Rev. Jackson has said in the past that he and the other Black athletes at the University of Illinois were no more than beasts of burden to the school as they were segregated and forbidden from participating in many school activities. So, Rev. Jackson isn't just speaking of what he's heard but what he knows.

    • A- all players are subject to the Wonderlic test and everything at the combine doesn't matter if they are black, white, green or yellow. Tim Tebow was most dissected NFL Player this year and last time I checked he was white.

      B- Gilbert's letter dripped of someone who was about to lose a lot of money not of a racist.

      C- What Jesse Jackson did in past has no relevance to what he said today.

      • Aaron says:

        Just because he was about to loose a lot of money doen't mean he wasn't a racist. Many rich are rasist. But do you honestly believe that he would say all those things if lets say it was Larry Bird. You are a fool to believe that race is not a factor. And when it comes to the combine 90% looks like me. It has a feel of a slave trading station. If you argue that then you are a fool. It's all about the Green but when that is out the way watch out Black.

        • Aaron says:

          P.S. Real talk now. when was the last time you listened to Jess. Jackson and not just a snippit some white media station allowed you to listen too. You would be surprised at what you hear

        • I totally believe he writes the same thing if it was Larry Bird. Without question.

    • steven says:

      thank you! robert littal you do yourself a disservice, you're smarter than that response.

  2. rook says:

    interesting…Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete
    William C. Rhoden

  3. Smacky says:

    Just because there's a book about it doesn't mean it's true.

  4. keisha brown says:

    amen.
    he just wanted to insert himself into the dialogue cuz it's a #TT.
    he's a sad shadow of what he used to be and shell of what he should be.

  5. Jesse Jackson is now a minstrel show…an attention seeker…and not about causes that really matter anymore. Why Jesse Jackson isn't speaking out and drawing attention to the verdict in the Oscar Grant trial is beyond me. That is a racial act that screams injustice and truly deserves his attention. Jesse Jackson is a joke.

  6. @gwriter85 says:

    While I wish someone other than the Reverend had said it. He's right. On the surface, yeah, it's all about money. But Gilbert's outburst had an element of racial under current that Jackson picked up on. Today's racist isn't standing under some sheet burning a cross, he's in a corporate office smiling at his black co-workers while tearing them down in front of their bosses and behind their back. If anybody knows racism when they see it, it's Jesse Jackson. No matter how much of a hypocrite he is.

    • Robert Littal says:

      To me that is reaching. Just because there are racial undertones in our society doesn't mean this was the case and there is nothing about this situation that says race to me.

      You are also doing the one thing that bothers me a lot in our society. When something goes wrong or a black person in criticize we automatically jump to the race card. I don't care much "undertones" there maybe, someone show me something anything that Dan Gilbert has done that struck of racism.

      You are feeding into a stereotype. Is it cool for every white person to assume every black man in a wife beater and listens to Plies is a thug? That is exactly what you are doing with Dan Gilbert and it is hypocritical.

  7. Swa_1 says:

    A- all players are subject to the Wonderlic test and everything at the combine doesn't matter if they are black, white, green or yellow. Tim Tebow was most dissected NFL Player this year and last time I checked he was white.

    All players might be subject to the test but are the results scrutinized "equally?" I wonder why black men have been playing in the NFL for decades and yet there have only been a handful of Black Qb's. Hmmmm

    B- Gilbert's letter dripped of someone who was about to lose a lot of money not of a racist.

    When a "slave" run' s away from the plantation his "owner" is losing "money" right?

    C- What Jesse Jackson did in past has no relevance to what he said today.

    And this is coming from a guy that writes for the Washington post occasionally? I'm sure they employed a lot of colored writers in the "past" that you speak of. How quickly we forget. On this issue J. Jackson is only saying what people are afraid to say for whatever reasons.

    • Me working for the Washington Post and what happened in the past has nothing to do with my thoughts now.

      Using the term "slave" in any capacity to compare the working relationship of a professional athlete is a slap in the face to all those black people who really had to suffer some a black man could go around calling himself the KING

  8. Swa_1 says:

    How can one call himself a "KING" if he has an "OWNER?" Just face it slavery never ended just taking on a different form. Cotton field/football field etc…

    • Gilbert was not LBJ's 'owner'. Dan Gilbert OWNS the Cleveland Cavaliers…to make his business run properly and successfully, he EMPLOYES people…i.e. General Manager, Recruiting Scout, and basketball players. If you think about it 90% of America is employed by someone, including get this…(get ready to gasp) WHITE PEOPLE…

  9. Kema Pridgen says:

    I totally agree with this article and Whitlock’s as well. Jackson is an attention whore and the LBJ/Gilbert story is low hanging fruit. Yes Gilbert’s letter wreaks of entitlement, but how many entitled billionaires do we see in sports (you’ll find 2 in Dallas). Many years have passed since Rhoaden’s book and LBJ’s situation is the opposite of what he chronicled, so it is not applicable. I respect LBJ’s gangsta, but he killed his brand in the process. I don’t respect Gilbert’s letter because it was unprofessional and petulant, not because it was racist.

  10. Aaron says:

    You are also doing the one thing that bothers me a lot in our society. When something goes wrong or a black person in criticize we automatically jump to the race card. I don’t care much “undertones” there maybe, someone show me something anything that Dan Gilbert has done that struck of racism.

    Get it right Bud. I never jumped to the race card(I never liked that phrase, Cards is a game this is real life) I said that Just because he was about to loose a lot of money doen’t mean he wasn’t a racist. Many rich are rasist. But do you honestly believe that he would say all those things if lets say it was Larry Bird. (you are fooling yourself if you think he would say those things to LB. I in no way used a so called “Race Card” I stated facts read my post. The Biggest problem is that you feel that rasism is confined to just mean stares and people tighting the grip on there purses.

    I respect you if i didn’t I wouldn’t read your post but don’t call me a hypocrite because I said that Rich people can be racist.

    Most slave masters were racist and also rich. They passed down wealth and also there values. Slavery only ended 120-115 years ago depending where you lived and I garuntee I have values passed down to me that came from my Grand father(My grandfather was born a slave and I am only 30 years old) So stop acting like slavery and rasim ended 500 years ago.

    • getthesenets says:

      I hate to say this but this article smells like opportunism.

      It reads, and sounds to me like the writer is trying to earn brownie points from the mainstream media over a controversial issue.

      Whitlock does this ALL the time….Robert….no so much.

      I borowwed the 40 millon dollar slave book from the library after a guest on the (now defunct) Stephen A. Smith show made reference to it. Perhaps he was the author himself… a man from Detroit with the worst mustache trim EVER….

      the title comes from a fan yelling at Larry Johnson during a basketball game…the YEAR after the Knicks made their playoff run in the lockout year, If you recall…LJ said the knicks were just a "bunch of runaway slaves" making reference to how improbable the playoff run had been and was and how they were going ALL out.

  11. Swa_1 says:

    Aaron–I second that

  12. I will try refrain from attacking you, I generally like your articles and the pics of women you like to objectify. I, like you, abhor with the use of the term slave. I also have unionized employees who use the word out of context because you ask them to do their job with conviction. Slavery was a harsh and brutal system. I love Rhoden's book. I have 4 nephews interested in sports and I look at the system much different now. Having said that the exploitation and brutal system of sports that is very much like a plantation. They are proded, poked, auctioned, traded and once they've outlived their usefulness put out to pasture. The words we use to describe their performance still rings of how we describe animals. They arent even viewed as human, much less man.

  13. The rhetoric about him being a King and such, being courted is laughable. It was great marketing. Marketing that the owner benefitted from and so did the city. The coourting was for him to bring his residual worth to the new city he would have claimed. His economic impact dwarfs whatever minor compensation he would get in return. Would you object to Flood and his analogy to being a slave prior to the existence of free agency?
    Jesse has every right to say what he wants. Just as you have the right to retort it with a substantial arguement. Simply saying you don't like the word doesn't enter anything into the dialogue, it is your right. But as a journalist It makes you see like the word you throw around "moist".
    Last but not least, attacks on Jesse is not a logical argument.. As a writer you know that. I agree, unarmend men get killed by cops and other black men. Jesse and Company could do more with their ability. He still is paying for his comment against Obamma. Maybe we should let him get on BET and cry like Chris Brown. It seems tears are the way to redemption.

  14. Mike Jackson says:

    Damn Robert, people really dislike you because of what you wrote. Oh well, comes with the territory.
    On another not, I'll keep my thoughts brief. The last time I checked, it was the players who had the option to play a particular sport they love. They don’t have someone forcing them in that sport. Last time I checked, slaves were forced to work, or am I wrong about that? If an athlete feels like a slave, feels he is being auctioned off at the combine, how about that athlete finish school, get a good education and chose a different line of work. This is just my opinion.

  15. Kamala Jones says:

    "A well-paid slave is nonetheless a slave."

    – Curt Flood

    It really bothers me how whenever a Black person is compensated a few dollars then it becomes nonsensical to compare such Black person to a slave. Some slaves were compensated for their labor during the time of slavery as these slaves were usually highly skilled laborers (blacksmiths, carpenters, etc) and many of these slaves were able to BUY their way out of slavery with their earned wages. Just like today we have highly skilled Black athletes that are paid for their skilled labor.

    • Kamala Jones says:

      Also, I find it incredulous that any Black person can compare the value of a free college education via an athletic scholarship to the monetary value that many of these Black athletes bring to colleges, the cities and states where these schools are located, and to apparel manufacturers. An athletic college scholarship is renewable on an annual basis but the athlete can't transfer from one D-1 school to another without sitting out a year and coaches and athletic administrators have no such contraints on their movement. I mean people are villifying Reggie Bush and his family for taking some money and moving into a house that was provided by a would-be agent or marketer when Reggie was bringing USC multi-millions and his family had been living in an apartment. Also, even if said Black athletes get a college education they will likely be paid less than their white counterparts.

    • Robert Littal says:

      I am sorry if you are comparing a slave buying his freedom..To Lebron James Free Agency I can't roll with that.

    • Moe says:

      Thank you I'm glad someone can be objective about Jackson's comments. Funny how black people today get upset at a term like slave yet freely call each other n____rs.

  16. getthesenets says:

    Rob.

    I hate to say this but this article smells like opportunism.

    It reads, and sounds to me like the writer is trying to earn brownie points from the mainstream media over a controversial issue.

    Whitlock does this ALL the time….Robert….no so much. The wording of the article and the wording of the responses to the comments make it obvious that Rob is not writing this for his core audience in mind.

    I borrowed the 40 millon dollar slave book from the library after a guest on the (now defunct) Stephen A. Smith show made reference to it. Perhaps he was the author himself… a man from Detroit with the worst mustache trim EVER….

    the title comes from a fan yelling at Larry Johnson during a basketball game…the YEAR after the Knicks made their playoff run in the lockout year, If you recall…LJ said the knicks were just a "bunch of runaway slaves" making reference to how improbable the playoff run had been and was and how they were going ALL out.

    Kamal is on point about slavery….after legalized slavery….the plantation owners used neo slavery aka sharecropping to get their crops planted and harvested….

  17. Taj says:

    Question: We're saying sports in general are equivalent to slavery, right? So, this would include sports like baseball, where white people dominate the sport (minus latinos)?

    I've worked in sports in the public schools and collegiate level. We train athletes from the time they are born in most instances….run, jump, shoot, hit, dive, skate, leap, etc. True, athletes ARE used to benefit the program for which they work for. I know of plenty jr. high schools, high schools, AAU teams, and colleges who illegally recruit players in ALL sports because a particular player has the potential to greatly benefit a team and bring money to that organization. Students are passed along throughout their educational matriculation simply because of their athletic ability, until one day they make a billion dollars and can't do "reading, writing, and arithmetic".

    LBJ and the crew did what I've taught my athletes to do since they were tots….People are going to squeeze out of you everything they can possibly get, while they are reaping from you, be sure to reap from them.

    The system is not set up for the athletes to gain the most money, etc, but the system can be used to gain a "free" education that one may not be able to otherwise afford, and/or to become better financially situated.

    So, were the comments rude…yes. Are there undertones of racism…maybe, possibly. Does it happen in all areas of sports AND entertainment…definitely.

  18. Dan says:

    All employers think they own their employees just like Jason Whitlock said. That is just a fact.

    Gilbert-Leborn James is a employer-employee relationship. Most employees give notice when they leave a job. Lebron James never even called his employer personally to tell him he was leaving. By the way “The Decision” put the Cavs in a hole because it didn’t allow them to go after other big free agents after Lebron left. Which any owner would be mad about… Michael Jordan would be mad if a player from the Charlotte Bobcats did the same thing to him. Cuban would have been mad at Dirk if he had done the same to him. Would Jackson had made the same comments in either of those situations?

    Kamala Jones… You make it sound like any black person that is paid for providing skilled labor is a slave. That it doesn’t matter if they make a few dollars or a few million dollars. So pretty much anyone that has a job is a slave then? What exactly is Lebron James trying to buy his way out of? Cleveland?

  19. Bangkok is the capital of the smiling country. I do like going here once a year. I usually stay three days in Bangkok. Have visited the floating market a couple of times. And MBK numerous amount of times.

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