James Dolan Doesn't Get It

And never will.

Jim Rome
June 03, 2020 - 11:32 am
James Dolan

USA Today

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In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, just about every company, brand, sports team, and entity under the sun put out a statement. And most of them were pretty bland statements that didn’t do or say much. Some were vague declarations that racism is bad, some mentioned George Floyd, a few even mentioned racist police brutality. But most of the statements existed for the sake of existing – so that the company or team could say they put out a statement. So they’re covered.

But if you had to pick a pro sports team that would completely butcher the whole thing, which team would you pick?

Fresh off their embarrassing moves around paying minor league players $100 less per week, the Washington Nationals would be a tempting pick. But they did finally get around to a really weird statement that somehow mentioned winning the 2019 World Series and a paragraph on their commitment to youth baseball. Huh? Weird. 

But as weird as that was, it’s not nearly as weird as what the New York Knicks did. Or didn’t do. Or sort of did.

By Monday, the team had not released a statement. So on Monday, James Dolan sent an internal email that was obtained by ESPN. The email included the following:

"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 this issue. Therefore, I want you to understand our internal position.”

Okay. So he’s aware that people have noticed that the team hasn’t issued a statement. And he’s aware that people within the organization would like to express some thoughts and release a team statement.

But they’re not getting what they want from Dolan. Instead, they get this explanation. 

"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 respect and peaceful workplace. We always will. As companies in the business of sports and entertainment, however, we are not any more qualified than anyone else to offer our opinion on social matters."

Wait. What?

“As companies in the business of sports and entertainment, however, we are not any more qualified than anyone else to offer our opinion on social matters."

First of all, given how terrible your basketball team has been for years, it’s pretty generous to claim that you’re in the business of “sports and entertainment.” Secondly, how about Dolan saying that “we are not any more qualified than anyone else to offer our opinion on social matters."

Dude, you are less qualified than everyone else to play music, but when has that ever stopped you?

So if you’re unqualified for music, but you do that, why wouldn’t you put out a statement, even if you think you’re unqualified to do that.

Nobody is asking you to put out a comprehensive proposal to address police reform. Or to discuss new methods of police training. You wouldn’t be qualified to do that.

But if you see what happened to George Floyd and your reaction is – whoa, I’m not qualified to say anything about that, that’s a pretty unbelievable stance to take. 

If you see George Floyd killed on camera and your reaction is, saying anything about that would be above my pay grade, that is a truly, terrible look. Truly embarrassing.

Because it’s pretty safe to say that anyone can look at that video and say that’s wrong. That is a very easy statement to make. That is something we are all qualified to address and SHOULD address. If you think you’re unqualified to say that, then what exactly are you qualified for?

You could even take it a step further, and say that the killing of George Floyd is the latest in a list of Black men and women who have been killed, and that something needs to be done. And to say that we have seen far too many videos like this, and those are only the videos that we’ve seen and we know about. 

And less than 24 hours later, my man, JD the straight shooter, was back at it again with a new email that was obtained by ESPN:

"Yesterday, I made a sincere attempt to provide my perspective on a very difficult issue, one that has no easy answers. I know how important this topic is to so many, and I do not want there to be any confusion about where I as an individual, or we as a company stand. So let me be clear: we vehemently condemn and reject racism against anyone, period."

You know the first email did not go well when the second email includes the line: “let me be clear: we vehemently condemn and reject racism against anyone, period."

If you find yourself in a situation where you have to send a follow-up email explaining that you are against racism, you might want to stop sending emails. If you have to say that, you aren’t good at saying things.

He went on to write: "My point yesterday was about actions, and the importance of living your values. At Madison Square Garden, we have worked hard to build an environment of inclusion and mutual respect and those are the values we try to live every day.”

Really? Was that your point? Because yesterday, your point was, that as a sports and entertainment company you weren’t qualified to talk about social matters. That’s exactly what you said.

Honestly, when it comes to a statement, the bar is so low because the vast majority of them aren’t meaningful or memorable. They’re just statements. Most of them feel pretty empty. With a few exceptions, I don’t really notice them. Use the word “shocked” and “appalled” with a few other words around it, post it on twitter, and that is enough for there to not be a controversy.

But when you don’t say anything and instead send that weird first email, now you’ve got a controversy. But only James Dolan and the Knicks could create a controversy here. Do you know how hard you have to work to create a controversy here? Honestly, I’m impressed. Because this is just so James Dolan and so Knicks. Only the Knicks and Dolan could have jacked this up as badly as they did. The surprise isn’t that they handled it as badly as they did, it would have been if they didn’t handle it like this. Instead, they’re right on brand. Embarrassing as they ever were. Dolan doesn’t get it and never will. And by it, I mean just about everything.