Cavs’ owner defends stance on LeBron
July 12, 2010
CLEVELAND – Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert got in another word about the messy, heartbreaking split with LeBron James.
He promised it’s his last one.
On Monday, Gilbert said he strongly disagrees with Rev. Jesse Jackson’s criticism of his recent comments about James, who announced last week he was leaving Cleveland after seven seasons to join fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat.
Shortly after James’ announcement, Gilbert fired off an incendiary letter to Cavs fans, vilifying the 25-year-old and calling his decision to bolt Cleveland as “narcissistic” and “cowardly behavior.” He also guaranteed his team would win an NBA title “BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE.”
Gilbert took it a step further when he later told The Associated Press in a phone interview that he felt the NBA’s two-time MVP quit on the Cavs during the playoffs the past two years, and that James “has gotten a free pass.” He also said James should be held accountable for his actions.
Jackson responded to Gilbert’s remarks on Sunday by saying the Cavs owner sees James as a “runaway slave” and that Gilbert’s comments put the player in danger.
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“He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers,” Jackson said in a release from his Chicago-based civil-rights group. “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.”
In a statement released by the team on Monday, Gilbert tried to put an end to the issue.
“I strongly disagree with Rev. Jesse Jackson’s recent comments and we are not going to engage in any related discussion on it,” Gilbert said. “Going forward, we’re very excited about the Cavaliers and the positive future of our region.”
Gilbert is attending the owners’ meetings in Las Vegas, where NBA commissioner David Stern said Monday he was fining the Cavaliers $100,000 for the comments.
“He was completely correct in expressing his disappointment,” Stern said, adding that Gilbert’s statement and the sentiments he expressed in a follow-up interview with the AP were “a little bit extreme.”