Today, LeBron James referred to the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as “that guy”. He can’t even bear to say his name. Of course, Trump has dominated the news the way celebrities often do, particularly when their behavior and or/language reveals their true character. Their digging of a hole, and the continued digging of dirt with a fork, is repeated multiple times, infecting all of our brains. So was the case with the “locker room” talk of Donald Trump in 2005 when he proudly bragged about sexually grabbing woman’s private parts which is assault. Trump used the man card as his excuse and blamed it on how we talk in the locker room. When was Trump ever in a locker room? A golf locker room maybe. Nevertheless, LeBron commented on it by saying no, what is talked about in the locker room is not what “that guy” said.
LeBron’s comments on Trump come under the auspices of awkward or defiance- take your pick. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is a Trump supporter and donor. LeBron is not. LeBron has gone out of his way to let the world know he is an employee and Dan Gilber it the boss, in other words, don’t try to eek any friendship out of it. LeBron has his lane. Gilbert has his.
Last year LeBron said, “I’m one of the lower guys on the totem pole so I just do my job. I just work here.” It was funny and yet it wasn’t if you read between the lines. The meaning is clear. Dan Gilbert wants me only for my athletic contribution. I matter to him as a player. Nothing more.
That James forgave Gilbert for that letter he sent out after James defected to Miami, telling season ticket holders the Cavs would win a title before James would, was petty, small minded, stupid and sounded like a jealous lover who had been jilted. Many were shocked that James forgave him and came back to Cleveland. A win for the Cavs was a win for Dan Gilbert.
Gilbert is, give or take, a $5 billion dollar man, a GOP big time donor. He hosted the Republican National Convention in his place, a convention that had a lot of pissed off white people who have no tolerance for Black Lives Matters, an organization LeBron James not only supports but believes is necessary.
Then there was that hush, hush let’s keep it a secret fundraiser at Gilbert’s Chrysler House building in Detroit that raised money for Donald Trump. Activists found out about the fundraiser, picketed the event and began chanting, “Gilbert is for the Klan.” The optics couldn’t have been worse for the billionaire who is trying to have his cake and eat it too.
Dan Gilbert’s basketball business is talent delivery. The NBA mines more African American talent than any other sport. They make up the majority of rosters. But African Americans have been demeaned and ridiculed by Donald Trump, particularly the stop the violence by police crusaders. Or the anti-birther crowd. Or the Central Park Five who were wrongly convicted, imprisoned and eventually released only to have Trump say they were still guilty.
Perception is reality. Supporting Trump means you are okay with black men getting killed by police. Supporting Trump means you disregard abuse against women. Supporting Trump is a dance. You are asking potential players to do what Donald Sterling asked his black players to do. Forget what I stand for because you will get paid. That blows up in everyone’s faces after awhile. (Like Donald Sterling, Trump was sued by the Justice Department for housing discrimination against African Americans.)
To be fair: Gilbert has not endorsed Trump. That would be NBA suicide. Social media would tar and feather Gilbert a racist and call every black free agent a sell out. So he is playing coy. Pretending in public while in private spearheading events to keep the Trump presidency hopes alive.
As for his relationship with LeBron James? There’s nothing that can save that marriage and keep it alive.
photo via llananba