Charles Oakley may not be banned from Madison Square Garden anymore. True to New York Knicks form, under the direction of MSG and owner James Dolan, the defense barely held for the better part of a week.
Oakley was infamously banned from the arena on Friday in the wake of his uproarious and embarrassing ejection from the building on Wednesday evening, following a scuffle with MSG security that started just minutes after Oakley (a Knick from the summer of 1988 through the same season in 1998) took to his seat during a Knicks/Los Angeles Clippers game.
The longtime Dolan combatant then saw his name further dragged through the mud, as the MSG PR staff concluded that the self-made star needed “some help soon” in dealing with personal issues that Dolan on Friday clarified as what he thought to be anger and alcohol issues.
Possibly fearing a lawsuit from Oakley (who was forced to clarify over the weekend that he has no problem with alcohol) and expectedly embarrassed, the NBA moved on Monday to try to broker a peace between the sides, with former Oakley teammate Michael Jordan acting as the mediator (in a role that Phil Jackson failed at on Wednesday night, with Oakley reportedly in handcuffs at the time).
On Tuesday, it appears, MSG relented. From the Undefeated’s Mike Wise, who worked the Knicks beat for the New York Times during the tail end of Oakley’s career in NYC:
— Mike Wise (@MikeWiseguy) February 14, 2017
“It’s not about being at the Garden,” Oakley told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. “It’s about the fans. I want them to apologize to the fans. I told the commissioner I want them to apologize to the fans.”
Oakley said he is “in pain now. I’m hurt.”
Let’s remind ourselves that Oakley is neither a current Knicks coach nor player, and he doesn’t work for another team’s front office or broadcast staff.
He’s just an ex-Knick who went to a handful of games (if that) per year as a fan, and like most Knick fans and ex-Knicks, he very much dislikes the work of Dolan.
We refer only to the ex-Knicks, like perhaps former Dolan-screamer Latrell Sprewell, who aren’t paid by Dolan to sit next to him, at least:
These are interesting times. Latrell attends Knicks annual charity bowling event last night, the same event he annually blew off as a player
— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) February 14, 2017
In the end, could it be that Dolan and everyone else involved in this entire winless mess finally agreed that this was entirely too stupid to waste any more time on? Perhaps, but as we wrote on Monday, settling on the side of good reason would be giving Dolan too much credit. He doesn’t get to that side without being pushed.
You can’t go on television and announce that someone might be dealing with anger and alcohol issues. You can’t make “we hope he gets some help soon” the go-to quote, the sign-off, on your official press release.
You also can’t push around security guards, no matter how threatened you feel, without some sort of retribution. In doing as much, even without the possible levying of the heretofore unseen “video” that the Knicks promised last Friday of Oakley spouting nasty things on record, Oakley sadly leveled himself with Dolan and MSG.
Does that seem fair? It shouldn’t, because it isn’t, but this is how life works when you own the building, and the team, and have the technical application of the law on your side. Good sense and adult thinking (not that Oakley encouraged as much during his lesser moments) rarely tend to win out.
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No, people like Dolan (still the owner of the Knicks, still working with a seat a few rows ahead of the ones Oakley had to pay to buy at MSG) usually win out. Even if Dolan was once again mocked by an entire league and its followers, and even though nobody wants to sit next to Dolan’s seat (and, one would suspect, Dolan himself) without being offered some form of payment first.
Charles Oakley is the hero in this situation up until the trade deadline, a dealing setting that features James Dolan calling the shots for the Knicks, and this year’s draft lottery, when James Dolan will rely on the staff he created (we hope, as Rudy Gay likely won’t be available for a trade) to make the decision on a new Knick draft prospect. Charles Oakley is the hero until we remember that James Dolan gets to pick the next Knick president, the next Knick coach, and the next cadre of would-be saviors to enter Madison Square Garden.
The New York Knicks enjoyed significant success – a Finals trip, a near-Finals miss in 2000, a postseason appearance in 2001 – without Charles Oakley, but they’ve never enjoyed the sort of success one can count on in the years since Dolan wrested full control of the franchise (following a rough year) in the early summer of 2001. Neither the removal nor addition of Oakley or Dolan is any panacea for this club, but we do know which of the combatants we’d rather sit next to at a game.
Nothing was fixed here. Nothing will be, as long as James Dolan runs the New York Knicks.
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