Judge Dismisses Charles Oakley's Lawsuit Against James Dolan, MSG

Knicks Great Was Forcibly Removed From Arena In 2017

Ryan Chatelain
February 19, 2020 - 2:21 pm

James Dolan was within his rights to have Knicks great Charles Oakley escorted from Madison Square Garden in February 2017, a judge ruled Wednesday. 

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Video of the ugly incident showed Oakley shoving security guards before they forcibly pulled him away from his seat.

Oakley was arrested but accepted a deal with prosecutors that dismissed the misdemeanor assault and trespass charges against him after he stayed out of trouble for six months and kept away from the Garden for a year.

Oakley filed a federal lawsuit in Manhattan in September 2017 alleging he was a victim of assault, battery, false imprisonment and slander. The suit named Dolan, MSG Networks, The Madison Square Garden Company and MSG Sports & Entertainment as defendants.

The Madison Square Garden Company owns the Knicks. Dolan is the company’s executive chairman.

The lawsuit attempted to paint the picture of Dolan harboring a strong hatred of Oakley for years, which came to a head that night at the Garden three years ago. The Knicks said Oakley "behaved in a highly inappropriate and completely abusive manner."

In his ruling dismissing the lawsuit, Manhattan Federal Judge Richard Sullivan wrote: "Oakley grossly misunderstands the law concerning a landlord’s right to remove a trespasser from its property. The law is clear that the MSG defendants had the right to expel Oakley from the Garden and that his refusal to leave justified their use of reasonable force to remove him."

Sullivan added the case felt more like a public relations campaign, with both sides more concerned about winning in the court of public opinion.

Oakley's attorney, Doug Wigdor, vowed to appeal the decision. 

"Charles is not one to give up," Wigdor said, according to the Daily News. "While we are disappointed with the ruling, it's just the beginning of the fourth quarter and we are confident that we can turn this around with an appeal that we plan to file in the coming days."

Madison Square Garden released a statement saying: "We thank the court for its ruling. This was an incident that no one was happy about. Maybe now there can be peace between us."

Oakley played for the Knicks from 1988 until 1998, helping them reach the 1994 NBA Finals alongside Patrick Ewing, John Starks, the late Anthony Mason and head coach Pat Riley. But he has had a poor relationship with the team because of his criticisms of Dolan.