Jesse Jackson comments disputed by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert
Jesse Jackson said Sunday that Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert considered free agent LeBron James a 'runaway slave.' Monday, Gilbert said he disagreed with Jackson's take, but would not comment further on the episode.
On Monday, Gilbert said he strongly disagreed with Reverend Jesse Jackson's criticism of his recent comments about James, who announced last week he was leaving Cleveland after seven seasons to join fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat.
Stern, at the owners' meeting in Las Vegas, also said James was poorly advised not to tell the Cavaliers earlier that he was leaving them, and that the two-time league MVP's public announcement shouldn't have come in a made-for-television special that attracted nearly 10 million viewers.
Shortly after James' announcement, Gilbert fired off an incendiary letter to Cavaliers fans, vilifying the 25-year-old and calling his decision to bolt Cleveland as "narcissistic" and "cowardly behavior." He also guaranteed his team would win an NBA title "before the self-styled former 'King' wins one."
Gilbert took it a step further when he later told The Associated Press in a phone interview that he felt the NBA's two-time MVP gave less than his best for the Cavaliers during the playoffs in the past two years, and that James "has gotten a free pass." He also said James should be held accountable for his actions.
Jackson responded to Gilbert's remarks on Sunday by saying the Cavaliers owner sees James as a "runaway slave" and that Gilbert's comments put the player in danger.
"He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers," Jackson said in a release from his Chicago-based civil-rights group. "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."
In a statement released by the team on Monday, Gilbert tried to put an end to the issue.
"I strongly disagree with Rev. Jesse Jackson's recent comments and we are not going to engage in any related discussion on it," Gilbert said. "Going forward, we're very excited about the Cavaliers and the positive future of our region."
Stern said it was OK for Gilbert to express his disappointment, but some of the comments were "a little bit extreme."
The commissioner also said James, Wade and Bosh violated no league rules in discussing free agency among themselves, and that the league wasn't investigating how the Heat managed to land all three on six-year deals.