Last week LeBron James announced his decision to play for the Miami Heat, leaving his long time team and hometown of Cleveland. While LeBron’s decision to transfer to the Heat resulted in a wide range of feelings from fans and the media, no one reacted in as volatile a way as the Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, as demonstrated in a heated public statement released to Cavalier’s fans on the team’s website.
Reading Gillbert’s letter shocked me because of how closely his language towards LeBron mirrors the way that abusers often speak to their victims. While losing James will be a financial set back for the Cavaliers, Gilbert’s over reaction paints James as a villain who has personally betrayed both Gillbert and the city of Cleveland. In actuality, James exercised his right as a free agent to change teams. Gilbert describes James as “narcissitic, cowardly, selfish, heartless, callous, and disloyal” and takes no personal responsibility for why James made the choice he did to transfer. This mentality of expecting others to act in accordance with one’s personal desires over someone else’s well being typifies an abuser mentality. Gilbert attempts to sell himself as being truly “loyal” to Cleveland. But, this rationalization also mimics the way abusers tend to think of themselves as blameless and always right in relationships. Gilbert casts James as a selfish coward for making a legitimate choice to switch teams, which he as a free agent who had fulfilled his contract, had the right to make.
Gilbert’s letter serves as a reminder of the importance of knowing that everyone has the right to do what is healthiest and best for them in any type of relationship. Whether its a business partnership, friendship, or romantic relationship it is important to respect the other person’s choices and allow them space to grow. If we consistently expect the people in our lives to accommodate our desires and wishes over their own, it’s difficult to have healthy interactions with anyone. All relationships require compromise and the understanding that sometimes people need to move on to grow as individuals.
How would you feel if you received a letter like this (see the above link to read the entire letter) from a boss, co-worker, friend or romantic partner? Leave us your thoughts!