By now, most anybody who remotely cares knows that LeBron James decided to sign with the Miami Heat. Most of those people know that Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert fired off one of those heat-of-the-moment e-mails usually reserved for bad high school breakups.
On Sunday the Rev. Jesse Jackson criticized Gilbert in the national media, calling his remarks about LeBron indicative of a “slave master mentality. [Gilbert] sees LeBron as a runaway slave.”
Sure, you can criticize Gilbert for being unprofessional in posting an angry, CAPITAL-filled rant on the team website. And Jackson is right in that LeBron and Gilbert technically had a business relationship and LeBron fulfilled his end of the contract.
But good lord, every single Cleveland Cavaliers fan, black or white, feels exactly the same way Gilbert does. Betrayed and devastated. Does that mean the city of Cleveland has a slave master mentality in relation to LeBron James? Nope – it means that they are sports fans, and anyone who has ever cared deeply about a team knows that such caring goes beyond the realm of simply cheering for the successful completion of a business relationship (which is, apparently, what Rev. Jackson thinks professional sports entails).
[A sports bar conversation, through the ears of Rev. Jackson: “Oh boy, as a Minnesota Twins fan, I really hope Joe Mauer decides it is in his financial interest to remain in a business relationship with the Minnesota Twins baseball franchise.” “Oh I feel ya. I’m really hoping Senior Account Executive Tyson Milhauser at Simon & Schuster signs another contract. He’s the heart and soul of their foreign acquisitions unit.” “Fingers crossed!”]
LeBron James set up an hour-long special on national television in order to dramatically and publicly break the hearts of the Cleveland fanbase. If I were a Cleveland fan, I would be relieved that the team owner reacted as a fan, and not simply as a disengaged business owner. This is why owners who are also fans (see: Arte Moreno) make the best owners.
Okay. Semi-pointless opinion piece over. I don’t really care about this, but since Rev. Jackson seems to think the world wants to know what he thinks of the LeBron James free agency story, I’m going to presume the world wants to know what I think of Rev. Jackson’s comprehension of what it means to be a professional sports fan.