The last thing we need more of is another New Yorker with a lot of power, inherited wealth, thin skin, and an inability to let issues go even when he is clearly in the wrong. But here we are.
In the wake of Charles Oakley being thrown out of Madison Square Garden and arrested Wednesday night, the Knicks can’t win the public relations battle because it’s a beloved former player vs. James Dolan, an owner seen as running a premiere franchise into the ground. You can be sure Friday night at the Garden there will be loud “Charles Oakley” chants from the fans. The smart move for the Knicks would be to make this go away as quickly as possible, don’t keep digging the hole deeper. You can be sure that’s what people at the NBA league offices have been telling Dolan to do for a full day. Instead, the Knicks sent out a press release late Friday with 16 witness accounts backing their side of the story (that Oakley was abusive) and promising video later.
This is not good for the Knicks reputation and ruining their ability to draw free agents.
Yet Dolan can’t let it go. He has to make sure he’s heard and, he thinks, respected.
So Dolan went on The Michael Kay Show at ESPN New York and the YES Network and confirmed that Oakley is now banned from Madison Square Garden.
Here are the “highlights” from what Dolan said, via Ian Begley of ESPN and Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.
Dolan misses the point. Might a frustrated Oakley have said some inappropriate things at last Wednesday’s game? Absolutely. Oakley said he didn’t, but it’s not hard to imagine a situation where the former NBA enforcer said some things aimed at Dolan, ones the owner thought crossed the line. However, the Knicks escalated everything from there. Ultimately, this is really all about perception — the Knicks handled calming him down wrong, throwing him out wrong, arresting him wrong, and not letting the issue go after the fact wrong.
This has other teams around the league shaking their heads.
It has made other current players — name free agent players, the kind the Knicks want to chase — mad and saying they don’t want to play for Dolan or Phil Jackson (because of how Jackson has handled the Carmelo Anthony situation). The Knicks are taking a bad situation and going out of their way to make it worse.
I just feel bad for Knicks fans. They deserve better.