New video evidence in the ongoing lawsuit between beloved former Knick Charles Oakley and not-so-beloved current owner James Dolan appears to show the MSG Chairman directing security to eject Oakley during a game last year, then giving a thumbs up after a melee ensued, according to court papers filed earlier this week.
The just-released footage comes as part of a lawsuit filed last September by Oakley, who claims that he was defamed and discriminated against after several security guards forcibly removed him from the Garden last year, just a few minutes after he arrived in his seat. Throughout the ordeal, Dolan and the Knicks have maintained that the former All-Star "behaved in a highly inappropriate and completely abusive manner." Oakley, meanwhile, has claimed that he was specifically targeted by the owner because of a longstanding beef, and that comments made by Dolan after the incident, speculating on Oakley's potential alcoholism, constituted defamation.
The 11-minute clip—in which Dolan can be seen summoning a security guard, then giving him some sort of signal, just prior to Oakley's ejection—would seem to lend credence to the former player's description of events.
WATCH: Footage appears to show #Knicks owner James Dolan ordering MSG security guards to assault and violently eject former NBA All-Star Charles Oakley from @TheGarden. - via @NYDailyNews https://t.co/fklfNDABB4 pic.twitter.com/5ZtL2drY5p
— Wigdor Law (@WigdorLaw) May 24, 2018
In a statement to Gothamist, Oakley's attorney Douglas Wigdor wrote, “Our legal papers filed today make clear that this matter should be resolved by a jury while also shining a light on Dolan’s conduct in precipitating an event that could easily have been avoided if he had not signaled to his security team to remove Mr. Oakley for no legitimate reason and gleefully giving a thumbs up after Mr. Oakley had been assaulted.”
The papers, filed by Wigdor on Thursday, additionally claim the footage shows that "from the moment he takes his seat Mr. Oakley can be seen laughing and casually interacting with fans. Nowhere is there evidence that he was acting as belligerently as Defendants falsely claim."
There is no audio in the video, but Oakley does appear to say something in the direction of the security guards, prior to his ejection. In court papers earlier this month, Dolan's attorney, Randy Maestro, wrote: "We remain confident that this case should be dismissed with or without video review. But now it appears that Oakley himself agrees with our longstanding position that, in deciding this motion to dismiss, Your Honor should review the contemporaneous videos, which depict Oakley repeatedly striking MSG security guards and resisting their efforts with NYPD officers to escort him out of the arena."
That incident resulted in Oakley's arrest on assault charges, which were later dropped, contingent on Oakley staying out of trouble for six months and staying out of MSG for a year. Oakley's lawsuit was filed a few months later. In addition to accusing Dolan of discrimination and defamation, it also alleges the owner is responsible for the Knicks becoming "a laughingstock in the NBA, decried for their incompetence both on and off the court."
UPDATE: We received the following statement from the Madison Square Garden Company:
“Today’s claims are nothing more than Oakley’s latest attempt to distract from the real reasons why he was ejected. We like the videos—they show what actually happened, which is why Oakley’s lawyer continues to fight to exclude them from the court case. As opposed to the edited and manipulated video posted by Oakley’s counsel, we filed the entire unedited video with the Court months ago. As we’ve stated before, we believe this suit has no merit and should be dismissed.”