Former Knicks star arrested at Knicks game
Charles Oakley in trouble; team cites ‘abusive’ conduct
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.”
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.