Head to Head: Where two writers share their opinions about one topic.
This Week – Was Phil Jackson’s Use of the Term “Posse” Okay?
Published: November 23rd, 2016
Adam Zaki: Phil Jackson’s use of the word “posse” to describe Lebron James’ entourage has been taken completely out of context by those who have criticized him.
Phil Jackson’s condescending demeanor and commentary isn’t anything new to those who are familiar with Jackson’s career. When he was coaching his way to championships in Chicago and Los Angeles, Jackson never hesitated to let his opinion be known about topics on and off the court.
Anyone can imagine it being pretty easy to say anything that comes to mind when you’re the “Zen Master.” Complemented by some of the greatest talents the league has ever known, Jackson’s plethora of success as a head coach has led some to believe he has infinite wisdom on and off the hardwood.
James should have been the bigger person and said nothing if he demands to be treated with such respect. This demand is coming from the same person who gave an expletive-ridden, grotesquely inappropriate speech at the Cleveland Cavaliers’ championship parade back in June. If James wants to play semantics with Jackson, maybe he should review his own profanity-laced rant in front of a crowd of approximately one million people.
In an interview with ESPN, Jackson discussed James’ desire for special treatment during his time in Miami when these comments were made. Following this reference, Jackson alluded to the difficulties of managing the league’s best talent, something he has had lots of experience doing.
With a Knicks organization that has shown relatively no improvement in overall play, Jackson should focus less on what he thinks about James and more about how to do the job he was brought in to do.
As the Knicks continue to spiral into their familiar style of poor play and bad publicity, Jackson’s ability to prolong the Knicks’ embarrassment has been his greatest achievement since his arrival in New York. After being the glimmer of hope for one of the NBA’s most disappointing franchises, he has been nothing but a distraction for an organization and the fan base that is starving for some type of relevancy.
Although Jackson shouldn’t have said what he said based upon the body of work he has displayed in New York, the semantic critique of the word “posse” is completely bogus. James’ business associate Maverick Carter told ESPN it was the “characterization” of the word that he was offended by. He said because they are “young and black” that Jackson could use that word.
This isn’t a black and white issue, and Phil Jackson isn’t a racist for using the term. In a complete overreaction by James and his associates, both sides should back down and continue with their goals. While James needs to focus on repeating what he accomplished last season, Jackson needs to find out the quickest and most efficient way possible to fix the abysmal Knicks.
Both sides have way bigger things to worry about than nonsense like this.
Zainab Iqbal: With four MVPs, three championships, and no signs of slowing down—LeBron James is arguably the best player in the NBA right now. He is also one of this week’s top stories on ESPN, regarding his response to Phil Jackson’s comment.
The term ‘posse’ can mean a group of friends, a group of people with the same interests, or “a body of men, typically armed, summoned by a sheriff to enforce the law.” Depending on how it’s used—such as the way Jackson used it—it can be interpreted as a derogatory statement.
Jackson could have used another term instead of ‘posse’. He could have said, “group of friends”, or “tight-knit group”, or “family”. By referring to a Black man and his friends/family as a ‘posse’, Jackson managed to find his way on the bottom of the scoreboard.
There is absolutely no harm in saying what you feel. James could have chosen not to respond to Jackson, and could’ve let his comment go without any issues being brought up. But he felt so downgraded by that word, that he just couldn’t let go.
“To use that label, and if you go and read the definition of what the word ‘posse’ is, it’s not what I’ve built over my career. It’s not what I stand for,” responded James in an interview. “It’s not what my family stands for. And I believe the only reason he used that word is because it’s young African-Americans trying to make a difference.”
First and foremost, why does Jackson even care? He should be focusing on the New York Knicks, rather than someone who is already at a good place in the NBA. After getting many new players—Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, and Marshall Plumlee—the Knicks don’t look like a good team. Jackson should be concentrating on getting more wins and exciting New York’s massive fan base, instead of worrying about whether or not James should’ve been spending an extra night in Cleveland.
Yes, everyone knows Jackson was one heck of a player and a coach, winning a combination of thirteen championships. He has been a part of the basketball organization since 1967, after being drafted in the second round by the same team he is the president of now. With so much experience, one would certainly expect Jackson to phrase his sentences more carefully, keeping in mind the vast population of Black athletes in the league. Maybe he really didn’t mean to offend anybody, but he did. And he needs to apologize for it; it wasn’t only James who was hurt, but many other players as well, including the Knicks’ very own Carmelo Anthony.
James’ hard work and success shouldn’t be downgraded by a demeaning remark. He is one determined player, winning championship after championship. A person’s success in life depends highly on those surrounding him. The people James chooses to surround himself with, people who make him stronger every season, all to see that they’re now being referred to as his ‘posse’—a term which was used to call upon a search for runaway slaves. That’s not quite fair now, is it?