2.24pm: The Knicks have issued a response to Oakley’s suit, calling it “frivolous” and a way to get attention, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN.
1:39pm: Former Knicks star Charles Oakley filed a civil suit today relating to his removal from Madison Square Garden in February, according to Victoria Bekiempis and Stephen Rex Brown of The New York Daily News. The suit accuses Knicks owner James Dolan and MSG of defamation and discrimination, saying they falsely smeared him as a drunk in the wake of the incident.
“One person who could not abide by Mr. Oakley’s refusal to meekly submit to people in positions of power was Defendant James Dolan,” the suit alleges. It also claims Dolan wouldn’t shake hands or make eye contact with Oakley, refused to invite him to fan appreciation gatherings and made him pay for tickets to games. Oakley was a frequent critic of Knicks management and had a strained relationship with Dolan before the public incident.
Their feud reached a boiling point February 8 when Dolan ordered security guards to remove Oakley from Madison Square Garden. Oakley resisted and claimed in the suit that he was “treated like a common criminal.” The clash was caught on camera and turned into a huge public relations fiasco for the team.
Oakley was arrested and charged with assault, but that was dropped in an August plea agreement that requires him to stay out of trouble for six months and avoid Madison Square Garden for a year. Dolan issued a lifetime ban from MSG for Oakley that was later rescinded and accused him of having a drinking problem.
“Dolan and MSG have caused irreparable harm to his name and career and discriminated against him based on the false perception that he is an alcoholic, all in a transparent attempt to denigrate his standing among Knicks fans,” the suit reads. “However, as he did throughout his playing career, Mr. Oakley has refused to walk to the bench in shame. Instead, holding his head up high, Mr. Oakley files this complaint to set the record straight.”
The suit filed in Manhattan Federal Court cites defamation, assault, battery, false imprisonment and abuse of process claims. Oakley is also suing under the Americans With Disabilities Act, along with city and state human rights laws, claiming Dolan and MSG denied him entrance to the Garden “based on their perception that he suffers from alcoholism, a disability.”