The best win of the Knicks‘ season is being overshadowed by a very public disagreement with one of the team’s most famous fans.
During Monday’s contest, a dramatic 125-123 upset of the Rockets, video surfaced of film director and Knicks super-fan Spike Lee arguing with Madison Square Garden security about which entrance he was permitted to use. Appearing this morning on ESPN’s First Take, Lee said he has used the same entrance for decades and hadn’t been informed of any policy change.
Lee referred to the Knicks’ claim that he has been previously told not to use the employee entrance as “spin” and said he’s being “harassed” by team owner James Dolan. The longtime Knicks fan added that he doesn’t plan to attend any more games at MSG this season.
“I’m coming back next year, but I’m done for the season,” Lee said. “I’m done.”
Not content to take the high road and avoid a potential PR disaster, the Knicks shot back early this afternoon, issuing a statement criticizing Lee.
“The idea that Spike Lee is a victim because we have repeatedly asked him to not use our employee entrance and instead use a dedicated VIP entrance – which is used by every other celebrity who enters The Garden – is laughable,” the Knicks’ statement reads. “It’s disappointing that Spike would create this false controversy to perpetuate drama. He is welcome to come to The Garden anytime via the VIP of general entrance; just not through our employee entrance, which is what he and Jim (Dolan) agreed to last night when they shook hands.”
Accompanying their tweeted statement, the Knicks attached photos of the building’s employee entrance and of Lee’s handshake with Dolan.
Even if the Knicks are telling the truth here – Lee has claimed again that they’re not – it’s a bad look for the organization, which went through a similar PR nightmare with Charles Oakley three years ago. With Leon Rose taking over as the team’s new basketball president of basketball operations on Monday and Steve Stoute looking to rebrand the franchise and resolve old feuds, the Knicks should be looking to move beyond the petty, drama-filled subplots that have dominated headlines in recent years.
It seems unlikely that most NBA players will take the Knicks’ side in their conflict with Lee. While the incident won’t necessarily be a deal-breaker if a star player is considering signing in New York, it’s another factor that could negatively impact the team’s free agent recruiting efforts going forward. New York is already facing an uphill battle on that front, despite its strong market and cap flexibility.