James L Dolan is the CEO of Cablevision, Executive Chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company and MSG Networks, and thus primary manager of four sports franchises including the New York Knickerbockers (no one calls them that). Dolan celebrated Black History Month by having MSG guards eject a black former player that has dared to criticize him in the past.
Last night, former Knicks power forward Charles Oakley attended a game at the Garden between his former team and the San Antonio Clippers. I don’t follow pro basketball much, but I had heard of Oakley. While most legendary players get free seats, Oakley and his friends had to buy their tickets. His foursome’s tickets were in pricey courtside seating, on the aisle, near the Knicks’ bench, but apparently not far enough from Dolan.
According to the New York Times reporting, nearby spectators said Oakley appeared relaxed, even sitting for a selfie with a season ticket holder. They did not hear Oakley shouting towards Dolan, though he would hardly have been the only fan to do so, but some did see glances between him and a security guard standing several feet away. One said that Oakley appeared to speak to that guard as he walked by his seat. Then one guard asked Oakley to leave, Oakley asked why, and a scuffle ensued as he protested and was surrounded by guards.
Both John and Patrick McEnroe were photographed among the notables nearby watching Oakley being taken away, while the crowd chanted, “Oakley, Oakley!” Phil Jackson ran into to the tunnel to try to calm Oakley who was being taken to the ground and handcuffed by MSG security and police. Oakley told him Dolan was responsible. Police charged Oakley with three counts of third-degree assault and one count of criminal trespass, all misdemeanors, but he was released with an appearance ticket.
Most media outlets have run with the Knicks’ tweeted statement:
“Charles Oakley came to the game tonight and behaved in a highly inappropriate and completely abusive manner, He has been ejected and is currently being arrested by the New York City Police Department. He was a great Knick, and we hope he gets some help soon.”
The Knicks also alleged that Oakley was drunk before the game, though no spectators have confirmed it.
According to ESPN, later Oakley told reporters:
“What happened is me and four friends went to the game tonight, to watch the Knicks and Clippers. We did sit down, trying to have a good time. Next thing I know I was asked to leave the building,” Oakley said at a New York restaurant after his release from Midtown South Precinct shortly past midnight ET. “I asked, ‘Why?’ and they said, ‘You have to leave because someone ordered you to leave.’ And I’m like, ‘I’ve been here four-and-a-half minutes.’
“I’m a Knicks fan, played here 10 years. I love the Knicks. I love New York. This is my heart. I wish them all the luck and success on the basketball court. I don’t know why I’m not welcome into the Garden.”