Former New York Knick Charles Oakley recounts his side of the arrest at Madison Square Garden
‘I shouldn’t have put my hands on anyone,’ he admits, while saying he was provoked
Charles Oakley says he’s never wanted vengeance; he just wanted validation.
And when he couldn’t get that from the organization that siphoned everything from his body and heart for 10 memorable years, he lost it.
“I shouldn’t have put my hands on anyone, but how [the New York Knicks] are saying it happened isn’t how it happened,” Oakley said in a phone interview with The Undefeated Thursday morning.
Oakley, the former bruising power forward for the Knicks, was beloved by fans for his grit and desire to grind. He was arrested and charged with three counts of assault and one count of trespassing after Madison Square Garden security convened around him in the stands near team owner James Dolan on Wednesday night.
The team contends Oakley was directing insults toward Dolan, whom he has had a contentious relationship with for much of the last decade. Oakley said that’s untrue, saying he never said a word to Dolan. Oakley said he was minding his own business when he was confronted by Madison Square Garden security, whom he said asked why he was sitting so close to Dolan before demanding that he leave the building.
When Oakley told them he had purchased his own ticket and they persisted, Oakley grew angrier and began shoving some of the men around him. He eventually wound up on the ground and was handcuffed in the bowels of the arena before being booked and jailed by the New York Police Department.
“I was there for four minutes – four minutes – when security came up to me,” Oakley said. “I was sitting right there by John McEnroe and doing nothing. I only got mad when they told me I couldn’t stay and they start surrounding me.”
Oakley has been critical of the Knicks over the years, specifically of Dolan’s stewardship as owner at times. But he never leveled personal insults toward the owner and, Oakley said, he was hurt when Dolan refused to shake his hand when Oakley approached him at the 2014 All-Star Game in New Orleans.
Since then he has said it’s been an even more acrimonious relationship. “Whenever I go to the Garden now, security has been told to inform him immediately,” Oakley said. “Last year against Charlotte, I went to a game and a bunch of security people came up to me right away and told me not to walk around, stay where I am. He just doesn’t want me in the building.”
Oakley said he’s been open to meeting with Dolan and has been approached by many potential mediators for such a sit-down. He says that Dolan has refused. The team has refused to include Oakley in any of its 70th anniversary season events.
“He don’t want to meet with me,” Oakley said. “Man won’t even shake my hand.”
Oakley was particularly wounded by the team’s statement Wednesday night about the altercation and arrest, which ended with, “He is a great Knick and we hope he gets help soon.”
“Right there, attacking my character like that – not makin’ it about the moment but somethin’ bigger that’s wrong with me? – I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know how you do that. I don’t.”