With Jackson and Lue officially out, there’s a void of Black leadership that won’t be filled in Cleveland anytime soon.
LeBron James did it again. He left Cleveland soulless. We expected things in the city of Cleveland to revert back to some normalcy once the Chosen One, the financial and spiritual lifeline of the state of Ohio, departed for Los Angeles. Bron’s impact and the way he redefined Black excellence, particularly in that city, was sure to have a lasting impact. After all, there was still a Black head coach in place with the Cavaliers in Tyronn Lue.
Lue’s a championship coach and despite not having LeBron James, prior to the start of the season, the organization sold the fans a bill of goods about being competitive and making the playoffs.
Cleveland’s NFL franchise was led by another African-American, Hue Jackson, who was orchestrating a rebuild with the Browns and appeared to have job security, the support of owner Jimmy Haslam and a commitment from GM John Dorsey that he would be able to see it through. There were flashes of that winning future this season and the arrival of franchise QB Baker Mayfield gave Cleveland fans a rare optimism about the future and the viability of recent draft picks.
Bron was gone, but the soul of the city still resonated with the African-American community and the pride was evident as no other city in pro sports boasted a Black head coach in both the NFL and NBA. Then in one weekend, in a span, less than 48 hours, the city of Cleveland purged all black thought leaders and influencers from their city.
It started with Tyronn Lue. The fourth-year coach was fired Sunday by general manager Koby Altman, who was disappointed with the team’s 0-6 start. What a way to reward the only coach to win a pro sports championship in Cleveland since 1964.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 20, 2016
LeBron was King in Cleveland, but Lue was the managerial face of the franchise. A Black leader coaching and handling the NBA’s greatest asset and the most influential sports icon of this generation. Lue’s presence gave hope to young inner-city kids to dream beyond the hardwood. He was LeBron’s boss and that fact left hard impressions on young minds searching for a way to be successful in sports without being a player.
LeBron James had nothing but glowing reports about Coach Lue:
“So, I had three and a half, four great years with Coach Lue and that team, we were able to put it together. And he put us in position to win. He put us in position to succeed. And then more importantly, all the onus is on the players. He gave us the responsibility to go out and do what we need to do to win ballgames. And that led us to three, while he was at the helm, three Eastern Conference finals, three Finals, one championship.
“So, I got nothing but good stuff to talk about T-Lue, but that whole situation is beyond me.”
Far beyond him. The post – LeBron James Era will be nothing like it used to be.
LeBron James speaks on the ignorant “Shut up and dribble” comments https://t.co/bnfuWmuDxU
Lue is temporarily replaced by assistant coach Larry Drew, who is also African-American, but it’s unlikely that he will get the gig as even Drew admits he is not the “interim coach” just a “voice right now”, as Cleveland tries to work its way out from under the mess it has created.
“We wanted to go in a different direction, a different coach and a different voice, ” Altman expressed as his reason for firing Lue.
What he means is he’s implementing a cultural shift in leadership and erasing any remnants of the LeBron James era that extends beyond the court.
It’s the same cultural shift that seems to be on the horizon for the Cleveland Browns.
On Monday, Jackson was fired by Cleveland after 2.5 seasons and replaced on an interim basis by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is in his second season with Cleveland. Jackson had a rough three seasons in Cleveland as he worked towards cultivating a winning atmosphere in Cleveland. Progress was made this season as the Cleveland Browns’ version of “The Process” began to bear fruits in the form of some wins, close losses and a revamped offense led by shrewd draft picks. His departure leaves the NFL with just seven head coaches of color.
The NFL has long claimed to desire more diversity within its head coaching ranks. Over the last decade, with the help of The Fritz Pollard Alliance’s Rooney Rule, its database of qualified candidates of color, new programs designed to aid in developing minority coaching talent, as well as the organization’s constant dialogue with NFL owners, there’s a deeper pipeline of minorities being interviewed for plush NFL gigs.
Everyone knew that these were throw away years for Cleveland and this season was just the beginning of the team’s rise out of the gutter, but for some reason, Cleveland’s front office succumbed to the unrealistic desires of the fans and media. They didn’t allow Jackson a chance to enjoy the benefits of the last two years of tanking and finally show what he can do with a formidable squad. Philly gave Brett Brown that chance, but the brothers in Cleveland got cut. When Cleveland wins 9 games next season, it will be attributed to the (white) coach who replaces Jackson, not the foundation he built while enduring losses to prepare for the future.
Just a season ago, Cleveland had the only All-Black GM/HC combination in the NFL with Sashi Brown and Jackson.
Cleveland Browns Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown talks about his relationship with head coach Hue Jackson and owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam.
Brown, considered an up and coming star executive in the NFL, was dismissed in December of 2017 after failing to draft a franchise QB.
Now that they finally have one, Jackson gets sent packing.
The effect of these men on the city, the culture, and the communities that they touch as people in leadership positions can’t be dismissed. It’s unlikely that either coach will be permanently replaced with another African-American candidate, so the era of Black sports prosperity in Cleveland could be over. Because he grew up poor, of color and disenfranchised, Lue was sensitive to the needs of the Cleveland community.
Lue would do things like serve Thanksgiving dinner to children and their families from Cleveland schools who are homeless or otherwise facing significant economic distress. He’s also influential in his hometown of Mexico, Missouri, involving the police in his charity to help build relations between law enforcement and the approximately 1,000 black people in town.
There’s a void of soul in the city that won’t be fixed until a potential generational talent, another unicorn such as LeBron James comes to Cleveland and reinvigorates the hearts, minds, and souls of the people. With a commitment to kids of color, their futures and issues that extend far beyond the court and actually influence social change.
Congratulations to our big kid from Akron & ? @kingjames on winning the @NBACares Off-Season Community Assist Award. We’re just getting started! #WeAreFamily #IPROMISE https://t.co/GoUHIZEA5w
It won’t come in the form of a player anytime soon. You just don’t have that many LeBron James’ laying around, ready to swoop in and be everyone’s Superman. Coaches have an impact, but their impact usually gains momentum by riding the coattails of a franchise player.
Who’s going to check The President when he releases his oppressive hate into the atmosphere ?
LeBron James says he doesn’t regret calling Trump “u bum.” ??? https://t.co/fmiSiz1Puh
Cleveland’s color rush has been temporarily purged and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Black leadership left with James who always made it a point to address social and racial issues and support his people in times of duress. His presence pressured white executives, owners, and corporations to be socially responsible and socially inclusive.
Unless he plans on making another return to Ohio, the face of Cleveland’s sports leadership positions will look much different over the next 10 years.