Friday, July 9, 2010

Cavs Owner Rips Lebron - Legal Implications?

Following Lebron's announcement that he would be joining the Heat, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert ripped Lebron James. According to the Associated Press, Gilbert also believes that LeBron quit during the playoffs.

"He quit,'' Gilbert said. ``Not just in Game 5, but in Games 2, 4 and 6. Watch the tape. The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar.''

Gilbert then followed up with an open letter to fans that can only be described as inflammatory. In it, he described LeBron's behaviour as a "shameful display of selfishness and betrayal", that his choice was a "shocking act of disloyalty" and that Cav fans "simply don't deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal" (I haven't seen this kind of language since my mom's last Christmas card).

Here's part of the letter, which can be found at NBA.COM (for the full letter click here):

Dear Cleveland, All Of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Cavaliers Supporters Wherever You May Be Tonight;

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" in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.

Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us.

The good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.

There is so much more to tell you about the events of the recent past and our more than exciting future. Over the next several days and weeks, we will be communicating much of that to you.

You simply don't deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal...

If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our "motivation" to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.

Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.

Sorry, but that's simply not how it works.

This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown "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.

...The self-declared former "King" will be taking the "curse" with him down south. And until he does "right" by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.
Sleep well, Cleveland.

DELIVERING YOU the championship you have long deserved and is long overdue....

Dan Gilbert
Majority Owner

By accusing LeBron of quitting on the Cavs, the issue becomes whether Gilbert is open to a claim for libel, which refers to a malicious, false and defamatory spoken statement. While it can be difficult to make out, Gilbert may have given LeBron something to think about - if only for a moment. Practically speaking, LeBron will want to move on, and suing his former boss is not what he wants to be doing.

The open letter appears on the Cavs section of NBA.COM. The NBA can exercise control over the content of its website, even parts that are dedicated to specific teams (Madison Square Garden, L.P. v. NHL). The question is whether the NBA will pull the letter. Some believe the letter is not in good taste. If ever a claim for slander was filed (again which seems unlikely), the NBA may also find itself as a defendant since the letter is on its website.

What do you think about the letter. Click on comments below and leave us your thoughts.


Ken said...

Assuming Dan Gilbert actually issued this open letter, I think it is clearly actionable, but I can't imgine LeBron James taking the bait. He knew the lumps were coming, and he will let them run their course over the weeks to come. I doubt that he really cares. My view. Check out the Cleveland Plain Dealer on line. It's professional sports. It's not real life. Move on Cleveland. Meanwhile James will be checking out high priced real estate in South Beach.

Johnny said...

This is the start of an epic rivalry.

Daniel Gilbeau said...

I can understand how this owner can be very upset that not only is he losing a superstar on his team but a meal ticket. Not only did Lebron sell out the arena for him but he made a small fortune for Gilbert selling jerseys and other stuff.
But to turn around and blast Lebron or any other player in this fashion is complete lunacy! Who wants to play for a team with an owner like that? Ok, besides Dallas with Mark Cuban but he is the kind of crazy owner you want as a player.
Should legal action be brought against Gilbert? Probably but I am sure it won't and that is fine. I heard that David Stern has fined him $100K.