Jul 12, 2010

LeBron (The Mandingo Remix)

I was hoping that I could deal with everything relating to Court Jester James one time and be done with it, but then The Right Reverend Jesse Jackson had to open his damn mouth!  Every time I get out, they pull me right back in!  Time to slay another antiquated dragon.

In response to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert's tirade following LeBron's announcement that he would be "taking his talents to South Beach,"  Jackson stated that Gilbert "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. This is an owner employee relationship -- between business partners -- and LeBron honored his contract."

See what you did, LeBron.  By turning this whole thing into a media clown show, you left the door wide open for one of the biggest clowns in history.  The Right Reverend might be a senior citizen clown at this point, but evidently his clown suit still fits.  He's gotten to be feisty in his old age too!  I'm surprised he didn't threaten to "cut" Gilbert's "nuts off" like he proclaimed he wanted to do to Obama back in '08.  Of course, a short time after he said that about Obama, he was crying Chris Brown-style crocodile tears while the President-Elect made his acceptance speech, so it's hard to really know what obtuse angle he might be coming from.

Let's get this straight.  Black athletes are not slaves!  Slaves couldn't "take their talents to South Beach," nor engage in any other act of free will.  Is this not obvious?  LeBron has it so good that he can afford to walk away from millions in Cleveland, sign with Miami, and still come out "Richie like Lionel."  I don't need to tell you that slavery wasn't quite so lucrative.

LeBron has teams willingly building their practice facilities closer to his house just so that he can cut down on his commute.  He has some of these organizations actually putting his unqualified friends on their payroll, just to keep him happy.  That doesn't sound like slavery to me.  It sounds like LeBron is gettin' his Special Ed on in a major way; "I got it made!"

Where's the comparable slave example for all this?  "Yo Master, I want you to put the cotton field closer to my slave quarters, so I don't have to walk so far on these bad feet I got.  And while you're at it, if you want me to keep pickin' cotton on your plantation, you gon' have to enslave some of my triflin'-ass friends too!"    To compare LeBron's multi-million dollar situation to that of a slave is a disgrace and it belittles the plight of all those nameless, faceless, powerless slaves who had to suffer under this brutally evil yoke of oppression. 

As I said previously, Dan Gilbert was wrong for his outburst.  He was wrong because what he said was in bad taste.  To throw someone under the bus like that after all that LeBron had done for the franchise, in spite of him leaving now, is just not how it should be done.  Gilbert is primarily wrong because he doesn't admit his own culpability in all of this.  He is wrong for being a hypocrite too, because if LeBron had re-signed with Cleveland, Gilbert would have been singing a much different tune.  He is wrong for not accepting responsibility for losing LeBron to Miami, though his Cavs had a better chance than any other team did to re-sign him.  Gilbert is wrong for kissing LeBron's ass and then getting mad when the entitled player still decided to bounce to another team. 

Gilbert lost the LeBron sweepstakes and it's clear that he is a sore loser. This is business Dan, never personal. The value of Gilbert's franchise dropped precipitously the second LeBron made his announcement. Now none of this justifies Gilbert's outburst, but it also doesn't make the situation a scene from Mandingo either.

Beyond Gilbert's hypocrisy, the charge of LeBron being disloyal, and Gilbert's general classlessness, much of what he said about LeBron was actually correct.   LeBron did come across as extremly "narcissistic" throughout this whole free agency process.  He apparently does want to go to heaven, but doesn't want to die, which is why he sought out his friends to help him win a title, instead of remaining the man on his own team, where he would have to take responsibility for being the leader.  To stage the decision on national television and not recognize how publicly humiliating this would be for Gilbert and the city of Cleveland was both "heartless" and "callous."   So while I can condemn the inappropriateness and lack of sincerity regarding Gilbert's outburst, it's not as though LeBron's hands are exactly clean here.

The NBA is an institution in our society where an overwhelming number of the employees are black, while all the team owners, except Michael Jordan, are white. (Think what Gilbert said was bad? I can only imagine what choice words Jordan would have used if the circumstances were equal and LeBron was bolting his Bobcats for another team. The only difference is, Jordan wouldn't have said it publicly, he would have said to LeBron's face!)  Clearly the notion of "ownership" carries with it all sorts of connotations relative to this nation's history and the culture of slavery upon which the nation was built.  Contemporary athletes make a lot of money.  Even the league minimum is much more than a middle class person can expect to make.  So to call these athletes "slaves" is to say that they have no power at all.  It is to say that they are forced to work against their will, with no compensation, to provide profits for others.

LeBron just exercised his power to sign a new deal in excess of one hundred million dollars and move to another city.  Nothing Dan Gilbert can say or do will bring him back to Cleveland.  There are no slave catchers on their way down to South Beach right now.  Slaves don't give their masters the middle finger on national television and live to tell about it. 

I was hoping that The Right Reverend would be silenced for good after his comment about Obama's genitalia was exposed, but my hopes have clearly not been realized.  When is this black victimization going to stop?  We are off the plantation now Rev., did you not get the memo?   To bring slavery into the picture is, as Mike Tyson might say, "ludicrous." 

Look, I can think of several funny Dave Chappelle-like skits or other humorous anecdotes about race in this context, but I recognize it for what it is, humor.  In spite of such humorous potential however, this is not about slavery.  It is about a immature young man and an out of control owner, neither of whom is willing to take responsibility for their failings.  It is about a highly capitalized sports culture where billionaire owners and millionaire players battle it out in the court of public opinion.  It is about a 24/7 news cycle that needs spectacles like the one LeBron has provided the last few weeks in order to feed a devouring media beast with tapeworm in its belly. 

Sure, whenever you deal with issues of ownership involving black and white in this nation, race informs the situation at some level, but to automatically jump back to slavery as a way of explaining a bad case of sour grapes in a dispute between billionaires and millionaires is just utterly ridiculous.  For someone to offer such an explanation, which ultimately absolves LeBron of any responsibility in this, is to encourage LeBron's arrested state of intellectual and emotional development.  I'm sorry, this is not about slavery.  As Melle Mel might say, "it's all about money, ain't a damn thing funny."  Or better yet, "cash rules everything around me."  That's what it's about.

Let's leave the slaves on the plantation, and deal with what's real here.  Anyone who has made as much money as LeBron James has over the last seven years, and who stands to make even more over the next seven years is no one's slave.  To suggest that he is, is to drastically exploit a situation were race is, at best, a relatively minor factor.  When making the kinds of accusations that The Right Reverend made in this case is to express a total ignorance of how sports works.  Such ideas are dated and ultimately counter productive and only serve to feed the narcissism of a man who was engaging in the act of media prostitution long before LeBron was even born.

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