With Charles Oakley's lawsuit against him dismissed last month, it appears James Dolan now has a new celebrity feud: Spike Lee. Lee was denied access to Madison Square Garden during last night's Knicks game by security allegedly because he used the employee entrance instead of the VIP entrance. Lee was heard yelling at security, “No one told me. No one told me. Are you going to treat me like Charles Oakley?’’
A spokesperson for MSG told the Post that Lee was never ejected, spoke with Dolan at halftime, and "is no longer angry." This spokesperson apparently had not talked directly with Lee however, because the director went on ESPN's First Take show this morning to furiously unload on Dolan over how he was treated. "I'm being harassed by James Dolan and I don't know why," Lee said at one point.
Lee explained that he's been using the employees entrance on 33rd Street for almost 30 years to get into the Garden. His ticket was scanned, he was taken to the elevator and up to the fifth floor, "and security was waiting for me like I just ran out of Macy’s stealing something."
“The security guy says—this comes from the top—‘Mr. Lee, you have to leave Madison Square Garden.’ They wanted me to leave the Garden, walk outside, out to the 33rd Street employee entrance where I came from, and come back on 31st Street. I said, ‘I’m not doing that,’" Lee said. "First of all, you scanned my ticket, you can’t scan a ticket twice. And I know once you leave a sporting arena event, you can’t come back in. So I don’t trust these guys, so I’m not going for the okey-doke...So I said I’m not leaving. They said, ‘We want you to leave the Garden.’ I put my hands behind my back and I said, 'Arrest me like my brother Charles Oakley.'”
Lee said Dolan did approach him at halftime when Dolan said they had to talk. "I said Mr. Dolan, I don't want to talk about nothing. I've been coming through this entrance for 28 years." He added that just last week, he had attended an event at MSG through the same entrance, and no one had said a word to him before this. He also said that the statement MSG put out about Dolan and Lee meeting was "Garden spin."
At one point, the cohosts pointed out that Lee has spent around $300K a season on Knicks tickets, totaling around $10 million over the last 28 years: "I look stupid now," Lee responded.
Stephen A. Smith asked Lee about people who criticize him for expecting preferential treatment, which got Lee particularly agitated over the state of the Knicks under Dolan's ownership: "In my heart, I'm still the kid from Brooklyn that was sneaking in the Garden. I love the Knicks, those are my guys. I grew up with Willis Reed, Red Holzman, Dick Barnett, Cazzie Russell, Dave Stallworth, Nate Bowman, Bill Bradley. Those are my guys! It's a shame, I look up at the roof and you see the banner from '72-'73! That's the last time we had a banner! I think, am I going to die before we win another championship? Is my son, who is 24, going to die before we win another championship?"
Lee said he wouldn't go to another Knicks game this year: "Not this year. No, I'm coming back next year, but I'm done for this season."
MSG said in a statement that Lee’s accusations were “laughable,” adding, “It’s disappointing that Spike would create this false controversy to perpetuate drama.” The statement also included photos of the employees-only entrance and Dolan and Lee shaking hands during the game.
Anyway, congrats to Dolan on alienating the world's biggest Knicks supporter. At least the team still has...uh...Woody Allen?
[Update] Lee spoke to the NY Times this afternoon to call the MSG/Knicks statement above a lie: "Anything the Knicks say, it’s going to be a lie. I challenge you to get the answers. I want Madison Square Garden to produce an email before I arrived at the Garden yesterday saying, 'Mr. Lee, you could no longer use the employee entrance'...It never happened."
He added, "Whats laughable is how the Knicks are the laughingstock of the league in sports. That's what's fucking laughable."