Madison Square Garden which was once revered as a basketball Mecca, has now become a cesspool infested with a dictatorial owner and an
incompetent President at the helm.
We’re now in year three of the Phil Jackson experiment and I can name a couple of things not named Charles Oakley that deserve to be thrown out and banned from Madison Square Garden. For the life of me I can’t seem to grasp the obsession some rich White
billionaires have with banning people who they deem as problematic. It appears New York Knicks owner James Dolan took a page right out of President Donald Trump’s book.
Last week the petulant Dolan had Oakley banned after a nasty public incident unfolded in front of the New York faithful. The video
that shook up the sports world featured Oakley in one of his not-so-glorious moments in the world’s most famous arena. Oakley can be seen
having a physical exchange with Garden personnel that resulted in a shoving match.
On Tuesday, ESPN reported that the ban against Oakley was lifted after a meeting between Dolan and NBA commissioner Adam Silver, but he said that he would not return to the Garden without an apology.
“I love the fans in New York. They’ve been supportive. One of the things I told the commisioner, I want to have a press conference and I want [Dolan] to apologize to me and the fans. They’ve had my back and they’ve felt the pain. I really appreciate the people all around who’ve had my back.”
But before cooler heads prevailed, things had become mightily heated between Oakley and Dolan.
When asked about the incident last week on the Michael Kay Show, Dolan said: “It’s very clear to us that Charles Oakley came to the Garden with an agenda, with a mission in mind,” he said. “From the moment he stepped into the Garden, and I mean the moment he walked through the first set of doors, he began with this behavior. Abusive behavior, disrespectful behavior. … It just accelerated and accelerated and accelerated, all the way down to his seats, then ultimately with the confrontation with security, then eventually ending up with his being ejected and arrested.”
As for what led to the actual showdown between the Knicks legend and Knicks villain, conflicting stories had surfaced. The Knicks
organization said that Oakley showed up to the game, after which he later admitted he had a few drinks, and displayed belligerent
behavior; hurling insults and expletives at the owner.
Oakley admitted that he did have a few choice words for the Knicks owner and expressed them, but only after he felt insulted at Garden
security demanding he leave without offering a legitimate reason and after following him around the arena.
There’s three sides to every story. His side, their side, and the truth. We’re coming up on almost 20 years of ineptitude and irrelevance for
the New York Knicks organization. Sure they’ve had a handful of teams that have been competitive and made the playoffs, but for the
overwhelming part of my childhood and early adulthood, the Knicks have been a poorly run organization.
So of course, fans and former Knicks players and legends are discontent with the current status of the team. Judging from what we
know its clear both Dolan and Oakley had an agenda that fateful night. But who came out of this situation the villain?
Oakley harnessed the emotion that any loyal Knicks fan has been feeling for years and finally unleashed it, albeit against Garden
security in the process.
While I don’t agree with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams comparing Oakley’s incident to Eric Garner’s situation minus the
chokehold, nor do I agree with the notion that because you’re a former employee that gives you right to show up to your old job and wreak
havoc, I do agree with Oakley’s general sentiment.
Look, the Garden needed to be shaken up, literally and figuratively. The Knicks need to be shaken up.
And I’m not referring to trading Carmelo Anthony, or getting rid of Derrick Rose. Change needs to start from ownership and management then make its way down to the main roster.
But let’s be real with ourselves; Dolan isn’t selling the team nor should he. The Knicks are a cash cow for him.
The Garden which once gave New Yorkers and Knicks fans endless memories and thrilling moments is now home to the most dysfunctional
management duo we’ve seen in the modern sports era. The very aura and mystique of Madison Square Garden is gone. Dolan and Jackson as a tandem makes Jerry Jones look like Owner/Coach of the year.
Perhaps the most telling image amidst the chaos between Dolan and Oakley was that snapshot of Jackson standing idly by looking confused
as discord and dysfunction surrounded him.
Since his arrival in New York, Jackson has made bad decision after bad decision, as he sits comfortably in his bubble ; pompous, smug, and
aloof, seemingly more worried about winning twitter wars with his star player as opposed to winning actual games.
For those who thought Trump being elected wasn’t an example of White privilege, then how do you explain Jackson still being employed with
He is the personification of white privilege. He had no prior work experience for the position he currently inherits, the Knicks as a franchise had their worse season historically in his first year, and his level of ineptitude has been so alarming that many feel his legacy is indelibly stained.
Yet somehow, he still remains employed.
From this point forward the “Free Oakley” chants will resoundingly echo throughout the halls of MSG, but I can think of another chant
that fans can rally behind; “Sell the team,” or “Fire Phil.”
Marcus Lamar is a Washington D.C.-based sports journalist. You can check out his podcast “Marc My Words” on Soundcloud, YouTube and coming to iTunes soon. Follow him on Twitter @iam_marcuslamar.