Everybody knows Jesse Jackson, right? Outspoken civil rights activist known for his excessive use of the race card? Normally the two of us don’t see eye to eye–I don’t really buy into his sensationalist agenda, and I think he’ll say whatever he thinks will get him the most attention, whether it’s good or bad. But for once–and I never thought I’d say this–I think he’s got a point.

If you read my post the other day, or if you’ve turned on a TV in the past two weeks, you’ve probably heard about the whole LeBron James debacle. If not, I’ll sum it up for you. LeBron James is one of the best basketball players of his time, and when his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers ended, he made a very well publicized decision to sign with the Miami Heat, causing the entire city of Cleveland to burn with a fiery rage against him. The owner of the Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, released a nasty open letter to Cavs fans, calling LeBron a coward, and claiming that what he did was a “shameful display of selfishness and betrayal.”

Well, of all people, Jesse Jackson put his two cents in on the issue. He issued a statement on Sunday claiming that Dan Gilbert sees LeBron as a “runaway slave,” and that his actions personify a “slave master mentality.” Now, when I first read this, my first thought was “all right, this is just Jesse Jackson being Jesse Jackson, making everything a racial issue as usual.” But the more I thought about it, what he’s saying actually makes sense.

Hear me out on this. Nowhere in his statement does Jackson call Dan Gilbert a racist. What he’s saying is that Gilbert is acting like he owns LeBron James, or like LeBron has an obligation to play for Cleveland and only Cleveland. Once LeBron fulfilled his contract with the Cavaliers and became a free agent, his obligation to Dan Gilbert and the Cavs was over. He was in no way required to continue playing for the same team. Players become free agents and change teams all the time, in every sport. This isn’t a new concept.

Now, I’ll admit that I think showcasing his decision with an hour-long TV special was ridiculous. There was no reason for that whatsoever, but it doesn’t change the overall outcome: an athlete fulfilled his contract and changed teams. It happens, and for the owner of the Cavaliers to throw a temper tantrum and bash LeBron on a personal level like that was unprofessional and unnecessary. Or, to use Jesse Jackson’s words, it was “mean, arrogant, and presumptuous.”

I don’t necessarily agree with the metaphor that Jackson used, but I have to agree with what he’s saying. LeBron James was well within his rights to do what he did, and Dan Gilbert really has no leg to stand on in claiming that he betrayed Cleveland. The fact that he is so upset about this really does make it sound like he feels that he owns LeBron, rather than owning the team. Like Jackson said, “this is an owner employee relationship–between business partners–and LeBron honored his contract.”

I don’t normally agree with Jesse Jackson, but this doesn’t strike me as a typical Jesse Jackson statement. Yes, he throws the “slave owner” analogy in there, but it’s just an analogy. He doesn’t go on to say that Dan Gilbert hates black people, or that he’s trying to keep LeBron down because he’s black. He really doesn’t throw race into the mix at all, other than his analogy. Now, if the situation was reversed to where the owner was black and the player was white, I doubt Jackson would have had anything to say about the issue. But he did, and for once, I agree with the man.

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