NBA

Jesse Jackson rips Cavs owner's LeBron comments

Jesse Jackson (Getty Images)
Jesse Jackson was less than pleased with Dan Gilbert's comments.
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CHICAGO (AP)

The Rev. Jesse Jackson criticized Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert on Sunday, saying Gilbert sees LeBron James as a "runaway slave" and that the owner's comments after the free-agent forward decided to join the Miami Heat put the player in danger.

Shortly after James announced his decision last week, Gilbert fired off an incendiary letter to Cleveland's fans, ripping the 25-year-old and promising to deliver a title before James wins one. He called James' decision "cowardly" and later told The Associated Press he believes James quit during a handful of Cavaliers playoff games.

"He has gotten a free pass," Gilbert told the AP in a phone interview late Thursday night. "People have covered up for (James) for way too long. Tonight we saw who he really is."

Jackson said, "These accusations endanger LeBron. His jersey is being burned in effigy, and he is being projected as a betrayer by the owner." Overall Jackson said Gilbert's comments were "mean, arrogant and presumptuous."

"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, 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.

Gilbert says he "strongly" disagrees with Jackson's criticism of his recent comments about James.

In a statement released by the team on Monday, Gilbert says the Cavs "are not going to engage in any related discussion on it."

NBA spokesman Tim Frank declined comment.

Among the comments Jackson made in the statement:

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• "If (Gilbert) believes that LeBron quit in games 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, then ... why did he pursue him and offer him and additional $120 million to stay in Cleveland?"

• "When players or coaches speak disrespectfully to or about referees, they are fined. If Mr. Gilbert cannot prove that LeBron changed games by quitting, he defames his character. He should have to face a challenge by the NBA and the players association. LeBron has every right to an apology."

• "LeBron is not a child, nor is he bound to play on Gilbert’s plantation and be demeaned. He has been a model citizen and has inspired the children of Akron, Cleveland, the State of Ohio and the United States."

Read Jackson's complete statement.

Tagged: Cavaliers, LeBron James

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