The fallout from Phil Jackson’s criticism of LeBron James continued into Wednesday, as a basketball icon took to defending Jackson’s intentions, while Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, called the use of the word “posse” to classify a black athlete’s business associates “not right.”
“When that all came out, I had to ask myself: Have I ever used that word before with a white player? And the answer is no,” Van Gundy said before the Pistons’ 105-102 loss to the Knicks at the Garden Wednesday night. “You have to be aware of the language and you have to be aware a little bit of your own biases if you’re going to overcome them . . . I know in the past I have used that term — I’m just being honest — and it’s not right.”
Meanwhile, Magic Johnson took to Twitter to say he didn’t believe Jackson’s comments to be malicious. After several tweets praising James and his business team, Johnson said “Phil Jackson made one small mistake by using the word posse.” He later added: “I know Phil Jackson, he’s a good man. I don’t think he meant to disrespect LeBron James and his team.”
It all started Monday, when ESPN published an interview where Jackson was asked about the legacy of Heat president Pat Riley and how it was impacted by James leaving the team. Jackson said that James “likes special treatment” and “needs things his way,” adding that when James was with the Heat, he would ask to stay overnight when they played in Cleveland. “You can’t hold up the whole team because you and your mom and your posse want to spend an extra night in Cleveland,” Jackson said.
Jackson has remained silent since the interview broke, save for retweeting his advisor, Clarence Gaines Jr., who is black. In it, Gaines lauds the work of The Posse Foundation, a youth leadership program. Carmelo Anthony spoke to reporters about the issue Tuesday, and said he did not believe Jackson meant anything in particular about using “posse,” but added he did not understand why Jackson was speaking about James at all. He did agree that it could be used as a derogatory term.
Others have been more vocal. Jackson was first criticized from James’ business partner, Maverick Carter, and then by James, who said the term “posse” has negative racial connotations. James said Jackson would not use that term for a white group, and he expanded on his comments later in articles posted late Tuesday night.
Asked if Jackson owed him an apology, James replied “For what? He don’t owe [anything]. I don’t know that man,” according to cleveland.com. He also told ESPN that he was still puzzled by aspects of Jackson’s criticism.
“What does that mean?” he said, referring to the special treatment. “I want to know what that means, though.”
On Wednesday, Van Gundy said Jackson’s comments should be cause for self-reflection. “At the time where you’re going to call out other people on attitudes, I think you need to be willing to look in the mirror and call yourself out,” he said. “I think that we’ve all got to become aware of our language and attitudes.”