It doesn’t appear that Dan Gilbert is backing off the stance that he took when he wrote his open letter to Cleveland Cavaliers fans after LeBron James’ decision to go to Miami last week. Reverend Jesse Jackson isn’t backing down, either.
The civil rights leader invoked racism and slavery when breaking down Gilbert’s emotional, spur-of-the moment letter. Amongst the items that critics have attacked most in Jackson’s response is that he portrayed the highly paid James as a slave and that bringing race into this subject detracts from actual acts of racism and slavery occurring around the world.
Jackson has now responded to those claims, and he’s standing firm on all of his initial thoughts.
Reverend Jesse Jackson joined Fox Sports Radio with Stephen A. Smith to reiterate his comments on Dan Gilbert’s letter, defend those comments and to talk about how NBA commissioner David Stern has handled the situation.
On his feelings about Dan Gilbert’s letter:
“Until Curt Flood came along and … won his lawsuit, owners could buy, sell and lease players. Many of them still have that same mentality. … [Gilbert] says I covered for you for all these years. I’ve covered for you, protected you and if I can own your contract for $128 million I’ll keep covering, but now you have betrayed us. Betrayed? Then he goes beyond that and says that these athletes must be held accountable, I guess referring to Wade and Bosh and James, suggesting, perhaps … some kind of collusion. Then he goes to his ultimate step and says ‘There were five games when you quit.’ You know the ultimate sin in athletics is to determine the outcome of the game by quitting. …Those are very profound accusations and the league must investigate that accusation. On the other hand, if it’s not true and I don’t think it is true, that’s defamation of character.”
On bringing slavery into the argument:
“He ran away from his plantation. [He's] the owner of the Cavs, not the players who are on the Cavs. … He had big plans for James, and … James chose another way. He seemed very spurned by his money was not spent the main [way he wanted it] and that’s why I likened it to a runaway slave.”
On bringing slavery into an argument about a player who makes millions of dollars:
“Didn’t you read Bill Rhoden’ book “Forty Million Dollar Slave?” I’m sure you did. The point is that people, whatever price they may be, who can be bought, sold or leased are in that predicament. … [Players] play hurt, they play injured and they are, in fact, owned by a contract. … Don’t focus on the analogy, focus on the owner saying ‘We’ve covered for you and five specific games you quit.’ That’s a very heavy allegation and it’s illegal, as well as illicit.”
On NBA commissioner David Stern’s comment that Jackson is mistaken:
“He knows I work hard to get these athletes in college to graduate on time, work hard on that. Pro players, I work hard for them to extend their careers by not getting over their heels in debt and not shortening their careers in foolish things and actions beyond the court. … I have high regard for Commissioner Stern.”
On whether he would have felt the same way if Dallas owner Mark Cuban had posted the same letter about Dirk Nowitzki:
“We all bring up our own cultural frames of reference. I went to jail this July 50 years ago for trying to use a public library. … I’m unfortunately a child of slavery, that’s my frame of reference.”
On what the appropriate punishment for Dan Gilbert:
“I think the first thing is he should apologize to LeBron James. LeBron has meant to much to him, to the city and to the league for him to accuse him in that way of being a betrayer, of being a quitter and all of that.”