Op-ed | Knicks owner James Dolan’s silence is part of the problem

New York Knicks owner James Dolan. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

By Joe Pantorno

James Dolan is part of the problem.

No, I’m not talking about the dysfunction of the New York Knicks on the court or within the NBA’s standings, I’m talking about something much larger. 

ESPN’s Pablo Torre revealed on Monday evening that Knicks players and staff members were “furious” that Dolan or the organization have not made a statement addressing the death of George Floyd — a 46-year-old Minnesota native who was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

His murder, caught on camera, has sparked protests across the nation with some of them descending into violent riots with looting and aggressive clashes with police.

The events have prompted many notable sports figures and most major North American sports franchises to speak on the matter, including 30 of the 32 NBA franchises. The Knicks and San Antonio Spurs are the only two who have not, but Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich did speak on the matter.

But Dolan is not planning on addressing an issue that has gripped the nation, which was revealed in an internal email that was made public. 

We know that some of you have asked about whether our company is going to make a public statement about the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. I want you to know, I realize the importance of the issue. Therefore, I want you to understand our internal position. 

This is a turbulent time in our country. The coronavirus and civil unrest have taken their toll on our way of life. We at Madison Square Garden stand by our values of a respectful and peaceful workplace. We always will. 

As companies in the business of sports and entertainment, we are not any more qualified than anyone else to offer our opinion on social matters. What’s important is how we operate. Our companies are committed to upholding our values, which include creating a respectful workplace for all, and that will never change. What we say to each other matters. How we treat each other matters. And that’s what will get us through this difficult time.”

The Knicks are one of basketball’s most famous brands, regardless of how flawed the franchise has become over the last two decades under Dolan’s watch. 

A statement of any kind would resonate with the team’s hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of fans around the world. They have 2.1 million followers on Twitter alone. 

Opting to stay silent only suggests that Dolan is compliant with the police brutality and systemic racism that has plagued the cultural landscape of this nation — a tone-deaf action considering his general manager is black and all but one of the players on the Knicks’ roster is black.

That’s certainly not the grounds to create a “respectful and peaceful workplace.”

His mindset is all-too-common when it comes from people in a position of privilege — a mindset that many are currently realizing is not the correct way of improving society. The one where a person can simply throw up their hands and back away from the situation to ensure their lives — even the most trivial parts like hearing about it on the news — aren’t affected.

I’ve said it before, it’s time for people — including myself — in those situations to get uncomfortable.

In all this, however, it’s important to note that some Knicks players have been responsible enough to take matters into their own hands, which should be applauded.

Dennis Smith Jr. attended protests in Fayetteville, NC alongside hip-hop artist J.Cole while Damyean Dotson, Kevin Knox, and Julius Randle took to social media. 

What does it say that a group of 20-something-year-olds have a better presence of mind and more maturity to use their platforms for good and to speak about the issues than the man tasked in running the entire ship?

I wouldn’t blame any of those players if they want to abandon that ship as long as Dolan is at the helm — and you can’t blame any potential free agents for not wanting to come within 100 miles of Madison Square Garden, either. 

But this is so much bigger than basketball right now.

This story first appeared on amNY.com

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