The New York Knicks rolled out the carpet for their new president of basketball operations Leon Rose the best way they know how — with a public relations fiasco to put yet another stain on the plenty-muddied franchise. Before the Knicks grabbed perhaps their best win of the season in a 125-123 victory over the visiting Houston Rockets, the news encapsulating the franchise was about superfan and renowned film director Spike Lee being denied entrance into Madison Square Garden.
According to later reports, Lee was denied entry into the arena through the employee entrance before being asked to use the VIP entrance instead. Since, this caveat has turned into a he-said, she-said fiasco between the two sides. The Knicks claim Lee was previously confronted and asked to enter through the VIP entrance, while Lee himself said that was not the case at all during a Tuesday appearance on ESPN’s First Take.
This has caused a divide between fans that believe Lee was childish to refuse to use the other entrance after admittedly using the employee entrance during his 28 years as a season ticket holder, while others can’t wrap their mind about how Lee admittedly has given the Knicks around $300,000 in admission costs alone this season for his front-row seats — the equivalent of $10 million over 30 years.
Spike Lee's response when finding out he spends roughly $300K a year on Knicks tickets and has given them almost $10M over 30 years:
"I look stupid now." pic.twitter.com/hmuMJttA4u
— ESPN (@espn) March 3, 2020
Many watching the interview on ESPN had the feeling he was coddled by a friendly panelist in Stephen A. Smith and a sympathetic Max Kellerman, but even if he looked like a rambling man on national TV, one must ask the question — why go there in the first place?
Lee is more than happy to drop by for his annual visit and talk about his hopes and dreams for the Knicks, to express his longing for the playoff days, to share his frustrations with management and the direction of the franchise. So why now? Especially when the Knicks are coming off their best win of the season.
Spike Lee doesn’t need more press. He doesn’t need to be part of tabloids or have cameras pointed at him. He’s usually the one ensuring the cameras point to the right people.
In this fiasco, whether Lee is right or wrong, it is the Knicks who come out on the losing end.
Even if Lee was told to use an entrance and chose to go through the same one he’s gone through due to comfort or his natural force of habit, he is Spike Lee.
Despite any struggles, poor performances, management changes, Spike Lee is there, in his front-row seat, draped in Knicks garb whether they win or lose. He wears the orange and blue like he’s just another person working for the organization.
Spike Lee is to the Knicks what Jack Nicholson is to the Los Angeles Lakers. Hell, he is a more famous Clipper Darrell.
From his choke sign to Reggie Miller to his multiple front-row fist pumps and thunderous claps, there hasn’t been a more notable fan in Knicks lore than Spike Lee.
So why alienate him?
To make matters even worse, the Knicks public relations department shoveled more dirt into its grave by putting out a statement (with wording that could have been written by James Dolan himself) chastising Lee for his appearance on ESPN.
The statement not only suggests he’s not “a victim,” but also goes on to call this “laughable” and accuses him of perpetuating drama, all while claiming to have complete knowledge of a conversation that supposedly took place at halftime along with a handshake.
New York Knicks Statement on Spike Lee pic.twitter.com/19JcvhFKO7
— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) March 3, 2020
The Knicks also included illustrations of the employee entrance and a low-resolution photo of Dolan shaking hands with Lee to tag along with the statement. Classy.
Dolan is fighting a losing battle by picking fights with celebrities. He might be feeling high and mighty after winning a legal discrimination lawsuit against Knicks great Charles Oakley, but in the court of public opinion (which matters greatly for an owner who loves being in the public eye), he’s already lost.
Alienating Spike Lee, who encapsulates the heartbeat of every diehard Knicks fan, was the one thing left for a clueless owner who seems to lack the chops to grow some thicker skin and do right by his patrons, especially when they’re as revered as Lee.
The Knicks are known as the franchise that passed on Patrick Ewing and Mark Jackson as coaches, the franchise that cheaply lit into Carmelo Anthony and the franchise that picked a fight with Oakley, one of their most endeared former players. Now they’re adding a new president of basketball operations in Rose, and what could have been a feel-good Day One as the head of the front office has been marred into the nightmare that comes from working with James Dolan.
What could have been a quick apology and treated as a misunderstanding has resulted in Dolan engaging in another war or words — a war he’s once again sure to lose. So long as Dolan has this inept and arrogant sense of entitlement as the owner of the franchise, it’s hard to envision the Knicks ever getting it right, especially when they alienate the few who have remained loyal to this day.