Former Knicks star ar­rested at Knicks game

Charles Oak­ley in trou­ble; team cites ‘abu­sive’ con­duct

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - CINDY BOREN

It was just an­other night in Madi­son Square Gar­den, where the New York Knicks were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing their lat­est drub­bing un­der the dis­mal own­er­ship of James Dolan.

The stands were filled with celebri­ties and pseudo-celebri­ties and then the sur­real hap­pened: Charles Oak­ley, a beloved fan favourite from what passes for the team’s most re­cent glory days be­cause of his phys­i­cal style of play, was hauled out of his seat by se­cu­rity guards, hand­cuffed and ar­rested. All of this played out dur­ing the mid­dle of the Knicks’ na­tion­ally tele­vised game against the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers.

Oak­ley had been sit­ting mere feet from Dolan.

“I was there for four min­utes,” Oak­ley told the New York Daily News late Wed­nes­day night. “I didn’t say any­thing to him. I swear on my mother. They came over and wanted to know why I was sit­ting there. I bought the ticket. I said, ‘Why do you guys keep star­ing at me?’ Then they asked me to leave. And I said, ‘I’m not leav­ing.’”

Oak­ley, who played for the Knicks from 1988 to 1998, shoved a guard and ap­peared to strike an­other be­fore be­ing taken out in a scene that played out with NBA com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver present. It quickly de­volved into one of those “only in New York” mo­ments, with an NYPD of­fi­cer chant­ing, “Free Charles Oak­ley! Free Charles Oak­ley!” and John McEn­roe stand­ing just feet from Oak­ley as he was re­moved from the scene.

With cam­eras rolling later, Oak­ley told his side of the story:

“What hap­pened is, me and four friends went to the game tonight to watch the Knicks and the Clip­pers. (We) get there, sit down, try to have a good time. Then (in­audi­ble) asked to leave the build­ing and I asked why.

“You have to leave be­cause some­one or­dered you to leave.” And I’m like, I’ve been here four and a half min­utes, I’m a Knicks fan, played here for 10 years, I love the Knicks, I love New York, this is my heart. I wish them all the luck and suc­cess on the bas­ket­ball court. I won­dered why I’m not wel­come into the Gar­den. They said no. Some big guys … more and more kept com­ing at me and I’m like, why do I have to leave?”

Oak­ley said he wasn’t sure about whether he would be al­lowed to go back to the Gar­den, adding, “as long as the fans care about me — I love the fans and I’m al­ways go­ing to love the fans. I’m a Knicks fan for life no mat­ter if I go back to the Gar­den or not.”

Sportswrit­ers on the scene re­ported that Oak­ley said, “Dolan did this,” among other shouted com­ments about the owner af­ter be­ing led away by se­cu­rity.

Knicks pres­i­dent Phil Jack­son tried to play the role of peace­maker, at­tempt­ing to soothe Oak­ley, who was yelling, “This is bull----,” and, “(Ex­ple­tive) that, let me go.”

Oak­ley was charged with three counts of as­sault and, be­cause this was the only way the ex­pe­ri­ence could end, his car nearly ran over Frank Isola of the Daily News as it sped away from the Mid­town Precinct South.

Shock quickly set­tled in. Clip­pers coach Doc Rivers, who played with Oak­ley on Knicks teams in the early ’90s, con­sid­ered help­ing his 53-year-old friend.

“It’s sad. That was tough for me to watch,” Rivers said. “Hon­est to God, you can see I ac­tu­ally took three steps. I swear I was go­ing to run down there, and then I thought, ‘What the hell am I go­ing to do?’ But I didn’t like that. That’s my guy. So that was tough to watch from where I was stand­ing.

“I don’t know what I was think­ing. I don’t know what the hell I was go­ing to do. But I could see him stand­ing there, and I could see all the guards around him,” Rivers said. “I’ve been around long enough to know that’s not a good look. So that’s what I saw. For me, that was tough to watch, es­pe­cially the end part when I saw them in the tun­nel. That was not fun to watch.”

FRANK FRANKLIN II, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Former New York Knicks player Charles Oak­ley ex­changes words with a se­cu­rity guard dur­ing the first half of the game be­tween the New York Knicks and the L.A. Clip­pers Wed­nes­day.

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