Litigation Between Charles Oakley, MSG, and James Dolan Begins
On January 12, 2018, at a pre-motion conference, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan told the attorney of former New York Knick, Charles Oakley, that his client’s defamation claim against the owner of the New York Knicks, James Dolan, and Madison Square Garden (MSG) would be an “uphill climb.” Oakley’s attorney replied, “A lot of judges say things like that and then reverse course.” As we previously covered, in September 2017, Oakley sued Dolan and MSG for allegedly humiliating him when he was kicked out of MSG and labeled an alcoholic on a radio talk show.
On February 8, 2017, Oakley was kicked out of a New York Knicks game at MSG. Security guards told Oakley to leave, and when he refused, the guards threw him to the ground and then escorted him out of the building where he was arrested. Oakley agreed to a plea deal for his assault, harassment, and trespassing charges. Later, on February 10, 2017, Mr. Dolan went on a sports talk radio show and stated that Oakley was drinking and abused the security staff the night of the incident. Dolan also mentioned that Oakley had alcohol and anger issues. After the comments, Oakley filed a civil lawsuit accusing Dolan and MSG of defamation, libel, slander, assault, battery, false imprisonment, and denial of public accommodation.
At the pre-motion conference, Judge Sullivan was skeptical about the defamation claim, yet he seemed more receptive to the civil assault and battery claims. Dolan and MSG plan to make a motion to dismiss the complaint in its entirety. Back in September 2017, MSG issued a statement that said, “This is a frivolous lawsuit and nothing more than another attempt by Oakley to garner attention …We will deal with this accordingly.” Further, they plan to attack the civil assault and battery claims by using video evidence from the night of the incident. A lawyer for MSG urged Judge Sullivan to look at video surveillance of Oakley’s altercation with security. However, Judge Sullivan did not want to view the footage at the pre-motion stage because Oakley’s claims are based primarily on Dolan’s statements.
Oakley is reported to have had a poor relationship with the team and Mr. Dolan dating back to his days as a New York Knick. The tensions have not subsided in recent years, thanks in part to Oakley’s criticisms of the organization and its owner. The original suit references the fractured relationship between Oakley and Dolan, stating that Dolan “constantly disrespected” Oakley during his tenure as owner. Both sides admitted at the conference that they were open to settlement talks.