Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert stands in the middle between his superstar player LeBron James and racists who disapprove of James’ remark to President Donald Trump. It’s been an eye-opening experience for the team owner.
In an interview on CNBC‘s “Squawk Box,” Gilbert said he has received “some of the most vile, disgusting, racist” messages on his voicemail from people who are outraged that James called Trump a “Bum.”
Gilbert, who is White, said he didn’t realize the level of racism across the nation until he listened to the messages.
“And you could hear it in their voice—the racism. It wasn’t even really about the issue, and that’s what really got me, because they went to who they really are, some of them,” he added.
James’ tweet, which he posted on Sept. 23, received more than 666,000 retweets and 1.5 million likes by Monday morning.
A week later, James doubled down, defending his remarks.
Earlier, he explained the outrage that many feel toward the president, whose comments has emboldened White supremacist since the early days of his presidential campaign.
Trump and Gilbert, the billionaire behind Quicken Loans, are acquainted. According to ESPN, the Cavs owner donated $750,000 to the president’s inauguration party. Trump called him a “great friend” during a White House visit.
But Gilbert is downplaying the relationship, saying in a statement that it was a strategic contribution intended to influence policy decisions. Other professional team owners, like Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, are among those who are Trump contributors who publicly defended their players’ right to protest.
In recent days, Gilbert voiced support for James and other athletes. The Cavs owner said he’s proud that his superstar has taken a stance on the issues, ESPN reported.