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Dan Gilbert is making money off LeBron James again

Eric Freeman
Ball Don't Lie

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In the wake of LeBron James' "Decision" fiasco, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert seized his newfound moral superiority and reminded everyone of it until he alienated them forever. In addition to the infamous Comic Sans letter, Gilbert knocked down the price on all LeBron Fatheads to the year of traitor Benedict Arnold's birth and crowed for months about how great his terrible (but upright!) basketball team was to root for.

Eventually, James opted out of the union's licensing agreement with Fathead, which barred Gilbert's company from selling any image with his likeness. Now, though, LeBron's opt-out has expired and Gilbert is free to sell his wall graphics once again. Except, instead of offering them to consumers at the reduced traitor-specific price, Gilbert has chosen to revert to the level that makes him more money. From Darren Rovell for CNBC.com (via EOB):

But on Monday morning, CNBC discovered that Fathead was selling four wall graphics of James in his Heat jersey. What makes the relationship sticky is that the ownership group of Fathead is led by Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who LeBron of course left to go to the Heat.

When "The Decision" was announced, Fathead slashed prices on James' Cavs wall graphics to $17.41, which is the year the famous traitor Benedict Arnold was born. Fathead can continue to sell the images through the lockout since its deal is with the NBA Players Association. The question is, can James opt out again perhaps to spite his former owner?

Congrats to Gilbert, who will now make $99.99 every time one of LeBron's remaining fans buys one of his Fatheads. Unfortunately, each unit sold will continue to make Gilbert's public posturing look like even more a put-on.

On one level, it's somewhat ridiculous that Gilbert now sees no problem with selling images featuring LeBron's likeness at full price only a year after he acted as if they weren't fit to take up space on his warehouse's shelves. It's almost as if Gilbert used the traitor gambit as a way to move product that would be harder to sell at a normal clearance level.

It's also important to note that there's something pretty foul about Gilbert making money off any NBA athletes while the Cavaliers refuse to let their players into the arena or practice facilities. As an owner, Gilbert is part of a group focused on keeping players from making money so they break and accept a deal that favors their employers. While the union gets paid during the lockout for any licensing agreement, Gilbert seems to want to have it both ways -- pushing players to the brink with a hard-line stance and making money off them nonetheless -- in situations like this one. How can he claim that players are making too much money to keep the NBA afloat when he's perfectly willing to deal with them otherwise?

It's tempting to call his stances contradictory, except they're both tied together by the desire to make money. Gilbert and the other owners are actually perfectly consistent. It's their claims towards any sort of morality that feel off, not their business decisions.

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