Gotta tell you, I was worried for Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. His eruption at LeBron James was so venomous that all sorts of worst-case scenarios popped into my head, and I don't mean a fine from NBA commissioner David Stern. Figured that would happen, and sure enough, it did.
But what else? Maybe the players union would rip him. Maybe I was misreading mainstream America's reaction on Sunday when I predicted that most people would appreciate, even love, Gilbert's fury. Maybe they would hate it to the point of boycotting the Cavaliers, forcing Gilbert to sell the team for emotional or even financial reasons. Those were my fears.
|Jesse Jackson hurts his own cause -- whatever that might be these days -- by lashing out at Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. (Getty Images)|
Jesse Jackson complained about Gilbert.
Sorry, that was too subtle, and Jesse Jackson doesn't do subtle. Jesse Jackson didn't simply complain about Dan Gilbert. He compared Gilbert to a slave owner. Which makes LeBron James the slave.
Which makes Jesse Jackson the biggest idiot in this story, and that's saying something, because this story includes Jim Gray and his question about fingernails.
Gilbert ought to be home free, because the enmity of Jackson is basically a free pass. If Jesse Jackson thinks you're a disgruntled slave-master, then you're not. Simple as that. A lunatic on the fringe, a liberal version of Rush Limbaugh, Jackson lost the right a long time ago to be taken seriously on race -- but in recent years Jackson has come to represent the inverse: When he says one thing on race, you can believe the opposite.
So when Jackson compares James to an oppressed, impoverished slave, you can believe the opposite -- that LeBron James is one of the richest men in America, that he has been treated opulently and lavishly since he was a teenager, that he stands to become a billionaire.
And what do you know? All of that is true. See my point on Jackson? If he says one thing, you can believe the other.
At the moment, I'm having a hard time believing the comments Jackson made Sunday night, though at the same time I'm relieved he made them. Because his comments take the attention off Dan Gilbert, and focus it directly onto Jesse Jackson. Which was Jackson's point all along, of course.
People occasionally say this about me, and it's insulting, so it gives me great pleasure to say it about Jesse Jackson and insult him like so: He doesn't believe a word he's saying.
He can't. There's no way Jackson believed his own mouth when his lips parted and out slithered the following words: "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."
Then again, Jackson didn't offer those words in the heat of the moment. This wasn't an interview or an overheard conversation. This wasn't a slip of the tongue by an intelligent man, which Jackson is. This was a press release from his Chicago-based civil rights group, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
First, Jackson said it or typed it. Then he read over it. He probably tweaked a word here or there, got it just right, then sent it out unto the world. Like manna from heaven, if manna was acid rain.
I hear your complaint coming, so let me address it right now: By writing about Jackson's ridiculous commentary, I'm keeping it in the public eye. And you're right. I am. I'm not exactly giving it credibility -- I compared his statement to acid rain, people -- but I am spreading it farther. Like manure.
But I can't ignore this, and here's why: Jackson is poisonous. Rainbow PUSH? My ass. He's a coral snake, a small little creature cursed by Mother Nature with the venom of 10 poisonous serpents. And the thing is, it didn't have to be this way. When it comes to right and wrong, good and bad, Jackson comes down on the side of right. Racial equality? That's good. Once upon a time, Jackson was a positive factor in this conversation.
Today? He's a carnival barker. He's the racial conversation's version of PETA, a great idea gone bad, an attention-seeking missile aimed directly at one of society's most vulnerable fault lines. Jackson stopped being part of the solution a long time ago. Now he's part of the problem, and Gilbert was his most recent prop.
Most people -- and here I'm assuming most people are reasonably intelligent, capable of thinking for themselves -- will see Jackson's commentary for what it is. But others, members of Jackson's depressingly large flock of sheep, will see Gilbert exactly as Jackson wants them to see Gilbert.
And the thing is, Jackson could have gone with other analogies -- more accurate analogies -- than master and slave. He could have compared Gilbert to a spurned lover, which is exactly how Gilbert sounded. Or he could have gone really low and compared Gilbert's rant to the kind of thoughtless trash uttered by Lane Kiffin.
But neither of those analogies would have served Jackson's purpose.
And I say that having no idea what Jackson's purpose is.