On LeBron And Loyalty

Posted by | July 20, 2010 14:06 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

Much of the criticism of LeBron James (particularly by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert) focused on his disloyalty or his betrayal of Cleveland.  Gilbert said to Cleveland fans:

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

But Harvey Araton, writing in today’s New York Times, rightly notes while describing the New York Knicks decision to not sign popular star, David Lee,  that it is more complicated than that:

The case of Lee, the Knicks’ best and most popular player, should also put into context the allegations of disloyalty against James when he left the Cleveland Cavaliers. Organizations do what they think is best for them, too, without having to say they’re sorry.

Sports fans tend to evaluate team decisions based on what is good for the team.  When the Yankees don’t bring back a Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui, it is acknowledged that it is a business (fans may disagree with the wisdom of the decision but they don’t say that a team should have overpaid out of “loyalty”).  But when a player leaves, he is disloyal and selfish and not thinking of the fans.

I’m not saying LeBron (pictured with son Bryce) made a good decision for himself (particularly the horrible decision to have a one hour show to announce the decision).  Nor am I agreeing with Jesse Jackson that Dan Gilbert was acting like a slave owner.  All I’m saying is that if a team has a right to dump a player to become a better team, then a player has a right to leave a team to find a better situation.

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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