Monday, July 12, 2010

Jesse Jackson Fouls Out on Lebron and Race

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Jesse Jackson should be slapped with a sixth foul and a fast ejection from the Lebron James game. Jackson should get the much deserved boot for shoving race into an issue that has absolutely nothing to do with race. Jackson likened Cleveland Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s much publicized open letter tirade against James for jumping ship in Cleveland to treating James as a “runaway slave.” Jackson’s race card sound bite would have gotten a splashy news note if he had stopped there. But Jackson couldn’t let it go at that. He demanded that the league chastise Gilbert for his James outburst. That’s hyperbole and neither Gilbert, the NBA, nor James bothered to dignify the inanity with a response.

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.

The Jackson race play with James was more than a desperate grab to snatch a moment of media limelight. That could easily be flicked aside and forgotten. But Jackson is still regarded in some circles as the bellwether for black opinion. That’s not a good thing since much of the media is still profoundly conditioned to believe that all blacks think, act and sway to the same racial beat. They freely use the words and deeds of the chosen black leader as the standard for African-American behavior. When the beleaguered chosen one makes a real or contrived misstep, he or she becomes the whipping boy among many whites, and blacks are blamed for being rash, foolhardy, irresponsible and prone to shuffle the race card on every social ill that befalls them.

Jackson’s twist of the James flight from Cleveland into an issue of black victimization fits that bill. The issue in the James wildly inflated media overkill saga is the media’s insatiable thirst to make athletes and entertainers demi-gods, turn millions of fans and even the disinterested into celebrity peeping toms, and then cash in on the ratings surge (and of course increased advertising revenue) from the hype.

James understands how the media hype game is played, and simply elevated himself to a pedestal higher than the other athlete demi-gods with his self- celebratory ESPN special. To Jackson, these are all mere trifles. What counted was that he got a chance to pop off on the one and only issue that was guaranteed to get a dab of media ink, namely James and race. He deserves the bench for that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press).
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Alfred said...

I certainly had an immediate reaction to Rev. Jesse Jackson's comment. I felt Jesse Jackson's remarks show him as an out of touch former civil rights leader looking to grab headlines by making any kind of sensationalized overblown statement that'll get him some attention. Rev Jesse Jackson this situation involving Lebron James and the team he left behind was simply a business decision on James's part that obviously left the Cavaliers owner angry and emotional not racist!! Jesse on behalf of the many African American people that once saw you as a great leader it's time to take a sabbatical from public speaking.

Martha said...

Jesse Jackson isn't backing off on his blast at Cleveland Cavaliers owner Daniel Gilbert. James was a free agent but the coach acted as if he owned him.
Jesse Jackson Stands By LeBron

shutch said...

Jackson is hastening his slide into abject irrelevancy

Martha said...

Jesse Jackson knows that LeBron James is the man.
He is NOT jealous of his success, but shows that he is wanting the best to happen for James.

Weekly Countdown: LeBron's decision could redefine greatness

Anonymous said...

I like to reference William C. Rhoden's look at the current state of sports, in his book "$40 Million Slaves" where he discusses how despite the level of income and influence many of the Black & Brown athletes have today, they are still looked upon by many of the team owners and league officials as pawns (dare I say slaves) in the chess "game" of the sports business. Jackson, while often seeking the media shine, could have expressed his point better. Yet Gilbert's tirade could well be steeped in his underlying belief that he had ultimate control of his "player/employee" (dare I say slave). Give LeBron James and the other players credit. They played by the rules and won this stage of the chess "game". Let's see if the rules change over the next few years to thwart any other "player/employees" from orchestrating these moves. The rules always seem to change in favor of the real orchestrators - Owners & League Officials.

There is no question that LBJ, DW, and CB changed the way athletes will approach their business "game". They, ultimately, are the reason the corporations make the big money. When the corporation wants to trade them, put them on the bench, on the injured reserve list when their bodies can't take it anymore, the corporations do just that, so to the athletes I say, get it the best way you can...butg use your power to empower your communities, build businesses, and help those less fortunate. You don't need a $50 Million house...give $50 million to giving shelter to Hatians displaced, to affordable housing in New Orleans, Miami, Akron, Chicago, and Dallas where LBJ, DW, and CB are from. Then your legacy will be complete whether you win a championship or not. Use your talent and smarts to build something real.