Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert isn’t just giving championship rings to LeBron James and his team’s players and coaches. He’s also giving versions of those rings to more than 1,000 other people who played tangential roles in the team’s first NBA title including janitors, concession workers, ushers and police officers who work Cavs home games.
This is cool, no doubt. These workers go overlooked and under-appreciated. Meanwhile, of course, Gilbert has been getting praised lavishly online since Cleveland.com broke the news Wednesday.
But nothing really happens in a vacuum. There’s more to this story way more.
The building where the Cavs play and all those ushers and janitors and vendors work is commonly called “The Q,” which stands for Quicken Loans Arena. That’s Gilbert’s Detroit-based company.
Quicken is one of the nation’s biggest mortgage lenders and doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation. It was sued by the U.S. Justice Department last year for allegedly violating federal lending rules on purpose to make more money. Quicken’s pre-emptive counter-suit was thrown out by a federal judged, but Gilbert and Quicken still vociferously deny the allegations.
That federal suit from last year is just the beginning, though.
The Center for Public Integrity reported in 2011 on other suits filed by borrowers and former employees alike who accused Quicken “of using high-pressure salesmanship to target elderly and vulnerable homeowners, as well as misleading borrowers about their loans, and falsifying property appraisals and other information to push through bad deals.”
“There were others that did more, but Quicken did their share, and they hurt a lot of people,” an attorney involved in a case against Quicken in West Virginia says in the Center for Public Integrity report.
Democracy Now! called Gilbert “Trumpian” in a detailed look at his business dealings this summer, before Quicken Loans Arena hosted the Republican National Convention. Around the same time, Deadspin ran an edifying/enraging summary of the raft of predatory lending practices many say have been baked into the Quicken Loans culture despite the do-gooder image it projects.
“This kind of legalized loan sharking of course wrecked the US economy,” Dave Zirin wrote of Gilbert and Quicken for The Nationin 2010.
Forget, for a moment, the story about how Gilbert reportedly tried to get a Yahoo writer fired for writing something he didn’t like after Yahoo and Quicken had struck a big business deal. And forget for a moment, the time Gilbert embarrassed himself with a comic sans, scorned-lover’s screed about James after the Cavs star left for the Miami Heat in 2010 (before, of course, the Ohio-native James announced he was coming “coming home” in 2014).
Those are small fries compared to the host of allegations against Quicken for engaging in bullying and vulture-like practices that had real consequences on the lives of real people.
So yes, it’s cool that the janitors and ushers and security personnel of Quicken Loans Arena are getting their own versions of the diamond-encrusted title rings James, Gilbert and others will wear. The gesture certainly makes Gilbert, whose net worth is estimated at $4.7 billion, look like a friend to the common man.
But the very name of the arena where those employees work indicates something else entirely.