Charles Oakley on Knicks' treatment of Spike Lee: 'You're cheating the people of New York'

Written By Dan Bernstein
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(Getty Images)

Before Spike Lee's feud with Knicks owner James Dolan this past week, there was former Knicks big man Charles Oakley's run-in with the head of the franchise in 2017 in which he was ejected from a game following a verbal altercation with Dolan.

That incident led to Oakley being arrested (the charges were dropped in 2018). He was later banned from Madison Square Garden, a move that upset many longtime New York basketball fans who hold Oakley in high esteem.

It obviously ticked off Oakley, too, leading him to come to the defense of Lee on Wednesday after Lee was involved in a squabble over which entrance he was supposed to use at MSG. Oakley referred to the Knicks as "a plantation" in an interview on ESPN's "Golic and Wingo" show. In a separate interview with The Associated Press, Oakley said Dolan was doing wrong by the city with his handling of Lee.

"Spike means a lot to New York. All the boroughs. He's a game changer for black movies, black superstars. He gave a lot of people chances to better themselves. This wasn’t fair," Oakley told the AP by phone. "You're cheating the people of New York when you do something like that to a New York native. I know he was born in Georgia but he’s been here long enough."

MORE: Everything that has happened between Spike Lee and the Knicks

Lee is probably the most famous Knicks fan of all time, sticking with the team through its leanest years as a courtside fixture. The deterioration of his relationship with ownership, then, is another marker of the struggling organization's downward slide.

The Knicks have had several unseemly incidents this season. Fans led a "Sell the team" chant at MSG in January, on the night a fight broke out between the Knicks and Grizzlies. There were also bizarre ejections of Marcus Morris and Bobby Portis. Lee's falling out with Dolan is simply business as usual in New York.

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