Tarnished Twenty- The FindLaw Sports Law Blog

Charles Oakley Sues Knicks Owner James Dolan Over MSG Incident

Charles Oakley, New York Knickerbockers legend, was kicked out of a Knicks game last February, after which James Dolan, current Knicks owner and executive chairman of Madison Square Garden, speculated that Oakley may have a problem with alcohol and anger management issues.

Those assertions, and the forcible removal of Oakley from MSG that night, were a step too far for the power forward, who sued Dolan and MSG for defamation, libel, slander, assault, battery, and false imprisonment.

Knick Cage

Oakley lawsuit claims that he was "neither intoxicated nor otherwise behaving inappropriately" on the night in question, but after his ejection, the Knicks issued a statement saying Oakley "behaved in a highly inappropriate and completely abusive manner" during the game, adding, "He was a great Knick and we hope he gets some help soon."

The suit alleges these statements and Dolan's during his radio interview amounted to "a coordinated and defamatory public relations campaign" by Dolan and MSG, which "caused irreparable harm to his name and career and discriminated against him based on the false perception that he is an alcoholic, all in a transparent attempt to denigrate his standing among Knicks fans."

And Dolan's assertions may stem from a deeper place, according to Oakley's suit:

Whether it was because of resentment for Mr. Oakley's passionate following among Knicks fans, anger that Mr. Oakley would not "kiss the ring" of the heir to the Madison Square Garden empire, or petty insecurities driven by his own personal demons, Defendant Dolan constantly disrespected Mr. Oakley, refusing to make eye contact or shake his hand during meetings, denying him the type of fan appreciation nights given to much less popular and successful members of the Knicks, and even making him purchase his own tickets to attend games at the arena he called home for a decade.

Knocking Around a Knick

Dolan was not named in the assault, battery, and false imprisonment claims, which instead were aimed and MSG and its staff. The scuffle that ensued while Oakley was physically escorted from his courtside seats led to two misdemeanor counts of assault, one misdemeanor count of aggravated harassment and one misdemeanor count of trespassing filed against Oakley, charges which will be dropped as part of a plea deal if stays out of trouble for six months and stays out of MSG for one year.

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