Beloved Knicks legend Charles Oakley has filed a lawsuit against Madison Square Garden and MSG chairman James Dolan, alleging that the team's owner directed arena security to "forcibly remove [Oakley] from the Garden and publicly embarrass him on live television" during a February game. The suit also suggests that Dolan is responsible for the Knicks becoming "a laughingstock in the NBA, decried for their incompetence both on and off the court."
The complaint stems from the February 8, 2017 incident in which Oakley was seen shoving security guards as they physically removed him from his seat and placed him in handcuffs. Afterward, Dolan went on ESPN Radio to call Oakley physically and verbally abusive, and speculate on his potential alcoholism. Those accusations, the complaint charges, were part of "a coordinated and defamatory public relations campaign against Mr. Oakley...all in a transparent attempt to denigrate his standing among Knicks fans."'
Charles Oakley shoves Madison Square Garden security and is escorted out of the building in strange scene pic.twitter.com/lTphvnSzFV
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 9, 2017
Soooooo Charles Oakley just got into a fight at he Knicks game. pic.twitter.com/klZBD89VI7
— Ian Schafer (@ischafer) February 9, 2017
Following the scuffle, Oakley was charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of criminal trespass. Those charges were dropped last month on the condition that he stay out of trouble for six months and away from the Garden for one year.
"However, as he did throughout his playing career, Mr. Oakley has refused to walk to the bench in shame," the suit, filed in a Manhattan Federal court on Tuesday, continues. "Instead, holding his head up high, Mr. Oakley files this Complaint to set the record straight and to hold Defendants responsible for their reprehensible conduct."
SBNY Exclusive: Charles Oakley on the ground surrounded by police and Garden security pic.twitter.com/cemhHF4Lu0
— SportsBlogNewYork (@SportBlogNYC) February 9, 2017
Oakley is seeking compensatory damages for "emotional distress and/or mental anguish." Dolan and MSG Networks are accused of defamation, assault, battery, and violating the American Disabilities Act and several state tort laws.
The suit also takes aim at Dolan's mistreatment of former Knicks employees, citing ex-VP of Marketing Anucha Browne Sanders, who was awarded $11.6 million in 2007 after a jury ruled that she was harassed by Isiah Thomas then fired for her complaints.
Additionally, Oakley managed to get in several shots about Dolan's abysmal record as owner since taking the franchise from his father in 1999. "Since Defendant Dolan became chairman of the Knicks, they almost immediately relinquished their status as one of the NBA’s premiere teams, winning only a single lone playoff series since the turn of the century," the suit states.
Aside from leading a historically inept team, Dolan has also refused to rightfully honor the players that once made the Knicks exciting, according to the 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," the complaint alleges.
Reached for comment, a representative for Madison Square Garden said in a statement, "This is a frivolous lawsuit and nothing more than another attempt by Mr. Oakley to garner attention. We will deal with this accordingly."