Jackson way off base on LeBron

Published Jul. 12, 2010 1:00 a.m. ET

I could pretend Jesse Jackson speaks for such a tiny minority that his inflammatory, predictable and misguided remarks about LeBron James and Dan Gilbert are unworthy of rebuke.

But then, I’d have to ignore the mountain of e-mails that poured into my laptop from African-American brothers and sisters making the same argument.

Jesse has a constituency, a passionate group of idiots who believe the best way to combat white-wing political bigots such as Limbaugh and Hannity is with black-wing political bigotry.

And so, in defense of LeBron’s narcissistic ego explosion and Gilbert’s emotional reaction to it, Jesse compared Gilbert to an 18th-century slave owner.

“His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality,” Jackson said in a statement released Sunday. “(Gilbert) sees LeBron as a runaway slave.”

Yes, this is an attention grab by Rev. Jackson. He heard about ESPN’s impressive ratings for “The Decision” and, like a mafia don, wants to wet his beak. Why let Jim Gray and ESPN executives have all the fun exploiting LeBron’s naivete?

There’s enough of LeBron’s carcass for Jesse to feast, too. And Gilbert’s childish letter to Cavaliers fans in the wake of LeBron’s departure gave Jackson the opening he needed to break out his knives and forks.


“(Gilbert’s) accusations endanger LeBron,” Jackson wrote. “His jersey is being burned in effigy, and he is being projected as a betrayer by the owner. ... LeBron is not a child, nor is he bound to play on Gilbert’s plantation and be demeaned.”

Yep, it’s the card. LeBron James and his kiddie handlers screwed up, staging an image-damaging public-relations disaster, and now some African-Americans want to change the subject by changing the argument.

NBA owners and their $100-million contracts are slave owners and King James is Kunta Kinte escaping on the Underground Railroad to Miami’s Tootsie’s Cabaret, where he’ll make it rain.

It’s stupid. Dan Gilbert’s rant was certainly immature, but it wasn’t remotely racist. He sounded like a scorned lover, a guy who gave his heart to a relationship and found out on national TV that the alleged love of his life didn’t care about him at all.

Gilbert vented. I give James credit for not responding.

Jackson and other African-Americans need to follow LeBron’s lead. We look foolish. We look hypocritical. We come across like people who have little genuine interest in seeing racial prejudice disappear and more like people who just want it to swing in our favor.

Rather than deal with the callous and classless way James departed his home state, some of us are trying to make this about race. It’s not.

No rational person begrudges James for joining Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Pat Riley and the Miami Heat. Sports fans — and owners — have grown used to star players switching teams.

People were stunned and turned off by the hey-look-at-me circus James conducted on his way out of Cleveland. It was unnecessary and easy to avoid. It was cruel to all the young and old fans who supported him.

Beyond that, it was bad business. James damaged his brand. He made himself polarizing for no good reason. A man of his wealth would pay $2.5 million to avoid the kind of bad publicity that has engulfed James in the aftermath of "The Decision."

You can argue James has the right to destroy his image. Man has the right to smoke cigarettes, too. It’s still stupid. And nonsmokers have the right to point out the stupidity of smoking.

You can’t defend LeBron’s lapse in judgment by claiming his critics are racist. You’re crippling James, baiting him to make more mistakes.

There was nothing honorable or smart about the way he orchestrated his exit.

From all reports, James knew months ago he was going to Miami with Wade and Bosh. His interviews were a farce. He invited white billionaires to grovel at his feet. And Jesse Jackson wants to call Gilbert a slave owner. Please.

Gilbert gave James and his entourage the keys to the franchise for seven years and tolerated all the indulgences of youth. He foolishly expected James and his posse to treat the Cavaliers with a modicum of respect.

It’s why you don’t spoil kids. They’ll take advantage and not express an ounce of appreciation.

Everyone who objectively watched the Boston-Cleveland playoffs series knows James quit on the Cavs, selling out his teammates and costing head coach Mike Brown his job.

Despite Brown’s African-American heritage, Jesse Jackson doesn’t care about Mike Brown. Jesse’s all good with LeBron’s betrayal of a black head coach because Mike Brown’s name doesn’t draw record TV ratings.

We’re a nation of jock-sniffers and hypocrites. It’s not surprising so many of us fall for the crap spewed by Jesse, Rush, Al, Hannity and all the rest.

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