After LeBron James received massive media attention for his free agency and subsequent choosing of the Miami Heat, some prominent Black leaders have made the comparison of James to a slave. Louis Farrakhan said that the NBA was a plantation and James was a sharecropper, calling NBA players “high paid slaves” and Jesse Jackson said that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert sees LebRon as a “runaway slave” after Gilbert’s harsh open letter regarding LeBron.
Comparing LeBron James to a slave is an insult to the millions of people who had to endure the forced labor, beatings, rape and humiliation of slavery.
LeBron James is far from a slave. He is no ones property, he makes money (a lot) he owns property, if he wanted to quit he could, no one can beat him (except the Cetltics). LeBron James was not forced to play basketball, he chose to do it himself. If LeBron James is a slave, you could sign me up too.
Jesse Jackson may have misinterpreted Dan Gilbert’s letter. I took Gilbert’s letter as being representative of the Cleveland community’s anger at the perceived betrayal by James. LeBron was a hometown hero in Cleveland, a city that doesn’t have many stars or attractions, a city that has been drastically hurt by the recession and unemployment where James was one of the few things that brought money and excitement to the city. While it is James’ right to play for whomever he plays for, I can understand why the fans of Cleveland are angry at him. It was this anger that Gilbert reflected in his letter, not anger of an owner mad at his runaway slave.
Basketball players are people lucky enough, hard working enough and talented enough to make a lot of money doing something most people do for fun. No basketball player is forced to sign a contract or to play basketball. While there may be economic inequalities in the NBA, calling a basketball player a slave is ridiculous. Two of the ten richest African Americans, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, both made their fortunes playing basketball. Many other African Americans have made millions playing basketball in the NBA and have started their own businesses and got into new careers due to playing basketball.
By comparing high paid athletes, who voluntarily play a sport that they love to make millions of dollars is insulting the people who had to go through the ordeals of slavery, people are disregarding the real oppression of slavery. Slaves couldn’t choose to play basketball or ask for millions of dollars to do it. While many athletes maybe economically exploited, it is an insult to compare a highly paid athlete and a human being forced to be somebody’s property.