CLEVELAND, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Despite one of Phil Jackson's best players being at the forefront of social activism in the NBA, the New York Knicks president has found himself in the middle of a conflict based on the racial undertone of a word he used when referring to LeBron James and a group of his friends.
Jackson and the Knicks are the subject of a story published Monday by ESPN's Jackie McMullen. In the article, Jackson spoke about James' days with the Miami Heat. He criticized the NBA Finals MVP for liking "special treatment" from NBA franchises. He went deeper into the issue by saying that when the Heat were on the road playing against the Cleveland Cavaliers, James wanted to spend the night, while Heat president Pat Riley did not want the team to do so. Jackson summarized the situation, and called James and his friends a "posse."
"It had to hurt when they lost LeBron," Jackson told McMullen. "That was definitely a slap in the face. But there were a lot of little things that came out of that. When LeBron was playing with the Heat, they went to Cleveland and he wanted to spend the night. They don't do overnights. Teams just don't. So now [coach Erik] Spoelstra has to text Riley and say, 'What do I do in this situation?' And Pat, who has iron-fist rules, answers, 'You are on the plane, you are with this team.' You can't hold up the whole team because you and your mom and your posse want to spend an extra night in Cleveland."
"I always thought Pat had this really nice vibe with his guys. But something happened there where it broke down. I do know LeBron likes special treatment. He needs things his way."
James' childhood-friend-turned-manager Maverick Carter was appalled by the comments.
"All the hard work, effort and achievement and @PhilJackson11 still calls us a "posse" every step you take they remind you, you ghetto," Carter tweeted.
Carter also tagged Jay Z in the tweet. Jay Z, or Shawn Carter, has many high profile clients as the founder for the agency Roc Nation Sports. Those clients include Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant.
Carter's tweet included a Google definition of 'Posse.'
James responded to Jackson's comments Tuesday.
"It just sucks that now at this point having one of the biggest businesses you can have both on and off the floor, having a certified agent in Rich Paul, having a certified business partner in Maverick Carter, that's done so many great business [deals], that the title for young African-Americans is the word 'posse,'" James told reporters.
LeBron on Phil Jackson: "I had nothing but respect for him as a coach ..."— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) November 15, 2016
Q: "Had respect?"
Q: "Until now?"
"For me, we see the success that we have, but then there is always someone that lets you know still how far we still have to go as African-Americans."
"I don't believe that Phil Jackson would have used that term if he was doing business with someone else and working with another team. Or if he was working with anybody in sports that was owning a team that wasn't African-American and had a group of guys around [him and] didn't agree with what they did, I don't think he would have called them a posse. But it just shows how far we have to go."
Carter went on to say that he wasn't calling Jackson a racist.
"Let me be clear I'm not saying @PhilJackson11 is racist,, I'm calling out his disrespectful language," Carter tweeted.
James said he had no previous ties to Jackson but "had" respect for him before the comments.
Let me be clear I'm not saying @PhilJackson11 is racist,, I'm calling out his disrespectful language— Maverick Carter (@mavcarter) November 15, 2016
The Cavaliers face the Knicks on Dec. 7 at Madison Square Garden. Knicks all-star Carmelo Anthony is one of James' best friends in the league. He talked to reporters about the situation between his great friend and his legendary boss.
Here's Melo discussing LeBron and Phil Jackson's comments. pic.twitter.com/r0CMi0minl— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) November 15, 2016
"From LeBron's standpoint, he feels a certain kind of way that he didn't agree with something that somebody said he respected, had a high level of respect for," Anthony told the New York Post. "I know him personally, very well. For him to say whatever he said, lost respect for someone or not, he really means that. I know him. I don' t think he'd just say something to be saying that. Whatever was said, I'm pretty sure hit home and he responded."
"There's different words, different people use in different ways,'' Anthony said. "To some people the word 'posse' might not mean anything. To other people, it could be a derogatory statement. It all depends why you're mentioning it and [who you are] talking about. In this sense, he was talking about five, four black men in this situation."
"Do I think he meant it in any kind of way? I really don't know. I don't think he did. I would hope he didn't. Sometimes Phil just says things, the first thing that comes to mind. He's probably in his office now regretting it. When it comes to, Phil, you never know what's going to be said."
First off let me start off by saying " All Praise Due To The Most High." Secondly, I'm all about rallying, protesting, fighting for OUR people. Look I'll even lead the charge, By Any Means Necessary. We have to be smart about what we are doing though. We need to steer our anger in the right direction. The system is Broken. Point blank period. It has been this way forever. Martin Luther King marched. Malcolm X rebelled. Muhammad Ali literally fought for US. Our anger should be towards the system. If the system doesn't change we will continue to turn on the TVs and see the same thing. We have to put the pressure on the people in charge in order to get this thing we call JUSTICE right. A march doesn't work. We tried that. I've tried that. A couple social media post/tweet doesn't work. We've all tried that. That didn't work. Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work. While I don't have a solution, and I'm pretty sure a lot of people don't have a solution, we need to come together more than anything at this time. We need each other. These politicians have to step up and fight for change. I'm calling for all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge. Go to your local officials, leaders, congressman, assemblymen/assemblywoman and demand change. There's NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. Those days are long gone. We have to step up and take charge. We can't worry about what endorsements we gonna lose or whose going to look at us crazy. I need your voices to be heard. We can demand change. We just have to be willing to. THE TIME IS NOW. IM all in. Take Charge. Take Action. DEMAND CHANGE. Peace7 #StayMe7o
In July, Anthony posted on Instagram about how athletes to "step up and take charge" while fighting for change. He said he is "all about rallying, protesting, [and] fight[ing] for our people."
My brother @kingjames been here doing it for 13years now. Man O Man time flies!!! Him and whatever team he has been on has been in and at the top of the conversation every single year he has been around!!! Lots have came and went but he has remained. #striveforgreatness #greatnessisinsane I have to look no further than my brother for inspiration!!
The post came after five police officers were killed in Dallas from sniper fire. Anthony, James, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade also took the stage during the July ESPY Awards to speak about change following Dallas shootings, as well as the shootings in Orlando, Baton Rouge, and many others. The foursome asked other athletes to step up as social activists.