Q: How many egos does it take to screw things up?
A: In the case LeBron James’ recent decision to leave theCleveland Cavaliers and play for the Miami Heat, three: James, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and Reverend Jesse Jackson.
After The Decision, it didn’t take long for majority owner Gilbert to post an open-letter addressed to “Cleveland Fans” regarding James’ choice:
“As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier.
“This was announced with a several-day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his ‘decision’ unlike anything ever ‘witnessed’…
“You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal…
“This shocking act of disloyalty from our homegrown ‘chosen one’ sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And ‘who’ we would want them to grow up to become…”
Rather than face disappointment like a gentleman, focus on recruiting a talented replacement and move on, Gilbert chose to act like a spoiled child and, in his own words, displayed “…the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn.”
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.
On Sunday, (July 11), Reverend Jesse Jackson posted his ownopen-letter in reaction to Gilbert’s, the core of which read:
“[Gilbert] 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… LeBron is not a child, nor is he bound to play on Gilbert’s plantation…”
Equally thoughtless and offensive.
For a preacher – one who worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – to equate a black athlete to a slave is to demean those who were, in fact, forced slave laborers. To then,defend his remarks in the media can only be viewed as pompous grandstanding.
A moment of sanity came Monday (July 12) from NBACommissioner David Stern who weighed in on all three.
“I would have advised [James] not to embark on what has become known as ‘The Decision,’” Stern said. “this decision was ill-conceived, badly produced and poorly executed…”
Stern then fined the Cavs owner $100,000. “I think the remarks by Dan Gilbert… were ill-advised and imprudent.”
“Equally imprudent,” Stern said, “are the remarks by my good friend Jesse Jackson, which purport to make this into a racial matter. However well-meaning Jesse may be in the premise on this one, he is… mistaken,” Stern said. “And I would have told him so had he called me before he issued his statement, rather than this morning…”
Once again, we have individuals who act without considering the consequences their actions might have on others.
Had James shared his decision in a private conversation with Gilbert prior to his public announcement, he might have defused the situation. Had Gilbert simply accepted James’ choice as the business decision that it was, he not only would have avoided an expensive fine but shown fans how a gentleman should behave.
And had Reverend Jackson spoken to Stern before posting his own reckless comments, he might have chosen language more appropriate to the situation.
Ethics is about making decisions that take into account the impact those decisions may have on others. At the end of the day, James, Gilbert and Jackson had an opportunity to demonstrate responsibility, candor, courtesy as well as self-restraint.
Sadly, they allowed the emotion of the moment to supersede the better angles of their nature.