Rejecting Jesse Jackson's LeBron-Slavery Analogy

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Most agree that Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert's comic sans-fueled diatribe against LeBron James was pretty childish. But was it racist? Rev. Jesse Jackson says Gilbert exhibits a "slave-master mentality":

He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. His feelings of betrayal personify a slave-master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave... LeBron is not a child, nor is he bound to play on Gilbert's plantation and be demeaned.

To a handful of prominent black commentators, Jackson's words didn't sit well:

  • 'Really?' asks Jonathan Capehart at The Washington Post: "Really? I mean, really? ...I don't blame Gilbert or Cleveland or anyone else who feels stiffed by James one bit for being rip-roaring angry. Of course they feel betrayed. James was more than a basketball player or a cash cow to the Cavaliers management and the city of Cleveland. He was a source of pride for a city that still smarts when people talk about that river that caught fire -- 41 years ago. If the owner of the Cavaliers wants to vent in an online missive that could have been written with collage cut-outs of letters from Sports Illustrated let him. In the James-Gilbert relationship, we all know who the master is."
  • Who Is Jackson's Audience Here? wonders Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic: "The statement here is so ridiculous as to elide even analysis--it's just wrong on its face. When I see these sorts of words, I just wonder about his constituency. I'm sure that there is some portion of black America that believes LeBron was treated like a slave, much as there is some portion of the broader America that believes in UFOs. I think the UFO-believing portion is much larger. I don't know who Jesse Jackson thinks he's speaking for. I don't know what coalition he represents."
  • He Simply Makes No Sense, writes Earl Ofari Hutchinson at The Huffington Post: "Jackson didn't bother to explain how a slave, let alone a runaway slave, can orchestrate their own media self-coronation. Or, how a slave can have the entire sports media genuflect in front of him, shove the BP spill, financial reform bill, and looming immigration reform debate, and the Oscar Grant shooting case verdict off the front page for a day. Nor did he say, how a slave can get a president, a slew of senators, and congresspersons, and Florida's governor to gush on about the importance of James's announcement. And certainly, no slave can turn an entire city (Miami) gaga over his decision to head their way, and stir excitement that he will create jobs, boost tourism, and business revenues to the tune of tens of millions dollars for an entire region."
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