By Gabriel Pariente
Published: February 15th, 2017
After all the drama between Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony and team president Phil Jackson over tweets containing cryptic messages about whether or not Anthony will be traded by the February 23 trade deadline, it seems as if the circus at Madison Square Garden has hit its lowest low.
Things went into another stratosphere during last Wednesday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, as Knicks legend Charles Oakley was arrested and later banned from attending Knicks games indefinitely by team owner James Dolan.
Oakley was arrested on charges of three counts of assault and criminal trespassing as per CBS Sports, and subsequently banned from Knicks games by Dolan. His arrest drew harsh criticism from NBA stars Lebron James, Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade, and even from long-time Knicks nemesis Reggie Miller.
“I was there for 4 minutes, and they came over and wanted to know why I was sitting there. Then they asked me to leave, and I said I’m not leaving, ” Oakley stated to the New York Daily News among various other sources shortly after being released from Midtown South police station. Oakley, who did admit to having some alcoholic drinks prior to the game, shoved and punched a security guard before being escorted out of the arena.
In a rare interview on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN 98.7 FM, Dolan accused Oakley of being “verbally abusive in a nasty way using racial and sexual overtones.” He also claimed Oakley had an alcohol problem, and stood by the team’s PR letter claiming Oakley “acted in a highly inappropriate and abuse manner ending that by saying we hope he gets help soon.” Throughout the interview, Dolan read from a binder of statements that read “Preparation” on the cover.
Oakley and Dolan have had a strained relationship for years, which has been attributed to Oakley’s critiques and bluntness about the state of the team under Dolan’s ownership. Dolan has excluded Oakley from numerous team tributes to former players according to the New York Daily News, and rebuffed any attempts at a reconciliation.
Eyewitness Ian Schafer reported that Oakley didn’t instigate with any MSG officials, contradicting Dolan’s claims on The Michael Kay Show. Schafer’s claim goes against what the Knicks’ PR statement said in which dozens of fans were listed who said Oakley was drunk and acting inappropriately. Schafer’s video that was posted to his Twitter account has received over one million views and has been used as one of the major pieces of evidence in the event.
After the Oakley incident, Frank Bendetto, the Senior Vice President for security at the Madison Square Garden Company, was relieved of his duties. Dolan was quoted as saying it was the “last straw” after multiple incidents that weren’t expanded upon in the interview with Michael Kay.
Dolan has been known to lash out at those who criticize his ownership. Fans will never forget the infamous tirade against a letter written to Dolan by Irving Bierman in 2015, a 72-year old season ticket holder that made the subject of the email with “I’ve been a Knicks fan since 1952”. Bierman accused Dolan of acquiring everything from his father, and urged Dolan to sell the team so that fans can “look forward to growing them in a positive direction”.
In a completely unprofessional email littered with spelling and grammar mistakes, Dolan responded viciously to Bierman, beginning the email by saying, “You are a sad person.” He then went on to tell Bielman to “start rooting for the Nets because the Knicks don’t want you.” Coincidentally, this story that dominated the headlines occurred almost exactly this time last season.
Dolan’s attitude will be a detriment to the Knicks’ ability to sign free agents, and his reign of terror has seen the Knicks win one playoff series since 2000 and go from one of the NBA’s most competitive teams to the league’s most expensive laughingstocks.
As long as Dolan remains at the helm, the Knicks will continue to remain relevant without winning basketball games. Despite the fact that the Knicks appear to be a public relations disaster, they continue to be an ingenious business model that produces astronomical revenues without competing for championships.
Oakley’s ban has since been lifted after NBA commissioner Adam Silver and legend Michael Jordan intervened in the situation. Dolan invited Oakley back to the Garden as a guest, but Oakley refused for now, saying to ESPN,”It’s not about being at the Garden. It’s about the fans. I want them to apologize to the fans.”
Whether or not Oakley was wrong, this is just another reason to follow the Knicks for reasons not related to competitive play. With characters like Dolan, Jackson, Anthony, and newcomers Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, the Knicks are more of a reality show than a basketball team at this point of the season.