Charles Oakley files civil lawsuit against James Dolan, calls Knicks ‘a laughing stock’
Charles Oakley filed a civil lawsuit on Tuesday against James Dolan and three of the New York Knicks owner’s business holdings, including the Madison Square Garden Company, according to multiple reports. The civil suit marks the latest in an ongoing feud between the ex-Knicks forward and his former boss that reached its crescendo in February, when Oakley was arrested in MSG during a game.
In the lawsuit, Oakley reportedly accused MSG personnel of assault, battery and false imprisonment and charged Dolan with defamation for his comments in the aftermath of the incident. According to ESPN, the suit seeks a to-be-determined monetary reward “for emotional distress and/or mental anguish, punitive damages, damages to Oakley’s reputation and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”
“Mr. Oakley filed this lawsuit out of principle and his desire to hold Mr. Dolan accountable for his actions,” Oakley’s attorney, Doug Wigdor, told multiple media outlets in a statement on Tuesday.
During a Feb. 8 game between the Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers, Oakley was removed from his seat by a handful of MSG security personnel, and an ensuing altercation was caught on ESPN cameras during a national television broadcast. Arrested on misdemeanor charges of assault, harassment and trespassing, Oakley has maintained his innocence, saying he did nothing to warrant the ejection.
After originally rejecting a plea bargain on the criminal charges, Oakley accepted a deallast month that clears him if he avoids getting arrested for six months and stays away from MSG for a year. Now comes the civil lawsuit, which also accuses Dolan and the organization of defamation, libel and slander for comments suggesting he was abusive, lying and suffering from a drug or alcohol problem:
Within days, Dolan had banned Oakley from MSG for life and told ESPN Radio’s “The Michael Kay Show” that “[Oakley] has a problem. People need to understand that. That he has a problem with anger. That he’s both physically and verbally abusive. He may have a problem with alcohol, we don’t know. But those behaviors, of being physically and verbally abusive, you know, those are personality problems.”
A week after the incident, Oakley publicly declared, “I’m not an alcoholic,” and the lawsuit accuses Dolan of having a “history of baselessly accusing critics of alcoholism.” Dolan himself is an alcoholic. Per multiple reports, Oakley is also suing Dolan and company under the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming they denied him access to the Garden based on a perceived disability — alcoholism.
The feud between Oakley and Dolan had been well publicized long before Feb. 8. In 2015, Oakley suggested Dolan refused to meet with him about a role in the organization, before the former All-Star joked a year later that he “wouldn’t mind cooking him dinner” and “might put something in it.” Oakley has also said the run-in with security on Feb. 8 was not his first at MSG during a game.
That explains a lot of the digs Oakley’s lawyers took at Dolan in Tuesday’s civil lawsuit, including calling the Knicks “a laughingstock in the NBA” that “sunk to unfathomable new lows” following a 2007 civil lawsuit in which Dolan and his company were found liable for retaliating against former Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders, who accused ex-Knicks GM Isiah Thomas of sexual harassment.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver tried to play peacemaker, calling a meeting between Oakley and Dolan in mid-February and asking Michael Jordan to help mediate. Dolan soon lifted the MSG ban on Oakley, but 48 hours later the ex-Knicks player took to Sports Illustrated’s “The Crossover” to accuse Dolan of being “a control freak” … “on the level” of disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was forced out of the NBA in 2014 due to racist remarks caught on tape and made public by Deadspin.
This civil suit seven months later ensures the feud between Oakley and Dolan will carry what Silver called a situation “beyond disheartening” over into another season. No trial date has been reported.