Fans are starting to trickle into NBA arenas after COVID-19 kept most away for the last year. The New York Knicks have slowly been bringing back fans to Madison Square Garden for about a month now, but Tuesday night one fan was asked to leave over a shirt he wore regarding team owner James Dolan.
The Knicks have had plenty of incidents with fans, including stars
It’s no secret New York Knicks fans have shared their collective frustrations with owner James Dolan. The big-market team has struggled mightily in the last decade and fans have been calling for Dolan to sell the team. Dolan, however, isn’t always the reason for a call to arena security.
Former New York Knicks star and current Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing said he was “accosted” two weeks ago at Madison Square Garden. Ewing was at the arena was his team played in the Big East Tournament. “I thought this was my building,” Ewing said, according to The New York Post. “And I feel terrible that I’m getting stopped, accosted, asking for passes, everybody in this building should know who the hell I am. I’m going to have to call (Knicks owner James Dolan) and say, ‘Geez, is my number in the rafters or what?'”
There have also been well-publicized incidents with other former Knicks players and celebrities. Former Knicks star Charles Oakley and another fan were once asked to leave the arena for bad-mouthing Dolan and getting into a fight with security. Knicks superfan Spike Lee has also had his issues at the Garden.
New York Knicks fan asked to leave for wearing a ‘Ban Dolan’ shirt
On Tuesday, a New York Knicks fan posted a Twitter video of himself at Madison Square Garden being asked to leave by security guards. The reason he was asked to leave was because of the shirt he was wearing. The shirt was black and had the Knicks-colored orange and blue lettering with ‘Ban Dolan’ written over a basketball.
In the video, the fan, Twitter user @djnessnyc, wrote, “Just got kicked & escorted out of the Knicks game @TheGarden for wearing a t-shirt by the homie @fwmj that apparently James Dolan didn’t like?! These tickets were too expensive fam to just get bounced five mins into the game with no refund?! How does this work @nba ?!”
A Madison Square Garden spokesperson told The New York Post the rule was simple. “Our policy is and will continue to be that if you are disrespectful to anyone in our venues,” the spokesperson said, “we will ask you to leave.”
The fan was given a choice and elected to leave
Madison Square Garden security appeared to be very respectful during the incident. In the video, a member of the security staff calmly explained the situation to the fan. “In this arena,” he said, “this would be offensive information. We’re asking you kindly if you would like to cover it up, and we’re offering you a free shirt to do so.”
The fan said it was his birthday and was hoping that may allow him to stay. He also said he had the right to criticize Dolan, citing free speech. “It is within your rights, but not in this arena because this is a private arena,” the security guard said. “It is owned by the individual. We get to stipulate here. We are not the government. This is not a freedom-of-speech situation. We get to determine what is offensive. We don’t allow offensive signs and we don’t allow offensive material. In our eyes, we would consider this to be offensive.”
Social media reaction to the incident was mixed. The anti-James Dolan folks praised the fan, but others believed the fan was simply trying to incite a problem.