The New York Knicks are one of only two of the NBA’s 30 teams who’ve failed to publicly addressed George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the Minneapolis police and police brutality against black people. According to ESPN via the Post’s Zach Braziller, this dereliction of humanity has left some Knick players and staffers “furious.” If they were pissed before, wait’ll they get a load of the company-wide email Dolan sent:
“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. 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, however, 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.”
As Dolan fancies himself a jazz man trapped in the body of a billionaire’s billionaire heir, the best way to listen to him is to hear the notes he’s not playing.
The word “black” doesn’t appear once. Nor does “black lives matter,” “white privilege,” “protest,” or “police brutality.” There’s a lot of “our” — “our company/internal position/country/way of life/values/opinion.” There are the classic riffs of white privilege: a lazy, apolitical presumption of everybody being in “this” together without ever saying what “this” is or why “this” is like this; the freedom to distance oneself from a reality others are suffering and dying under. “What’s important is how we operate” tells the Knick players, staff and fans that the owner’s chief concern is not their fears, anger and heartache, but the ringing of the cash registers.
But in other instances, particularly when there’ve been opportunities to support a racist president* who sees Rome burning and fiddles with a gas can, Dolan’s political paralysis sheds like snakeskin. He often fancies him quite qualified to offer his political opinions via cash or comments.
In September of 2017, days after Donald Trump uninvited the then-champion Golden State Warriors from being honored at the White House after they’d already uninvited themselves, Dolan sent Trump $125,000 to support his “long-time friend’s” re-election campaign. Earlier that year, he announced the Rockettes would perform at Trump’s inauguration (the Rockettes are based at Radio City Music Hall, one of Dolan’s holdings). A number of dancers expressed discomfort with this. Dolan met with them to discuss. Again his focus was the bottom dollar, further evidence of his disregard for the reality of others.
“I don’t believe it’s going to hurt the brand,” he told the dancers. “And nobody is more concerned about that than the guy sitting in this chair. I’m about to spend $50 million remounting the summer show. I’m going to spend a similar amount remounting next year’s Christmas show. I gotta sell tickets.”
At some point in the meeting, a dancer spoke. “‘I mean, it just sounds like you’re asking us to be tolerant of intolerance.’ Her comment was followed by uncomfortable laughter around the room and a pause.
‘Yeah, in a way, I guess we are doing that,” Dolan said. “What other choices do we have? What else would you suggest?’”
“All intolerance matters” isn’t as snappy as “all lives matter,” but they’re peas in the same pod.
“Suggest” suggests collaboration, a balance of power that doesn’t exist, the same fake logic that equates property damage to murder-by-cop and tear gas being shot into homes where protestors are denied food while being treated for injuries caused by cops using weapons that are banned in war.
MPD promised that no one would get arrested if they ordered food for the hungry protesters trapped inside but now cops are refusing to let the driver deliver the food.— Alex Taliadoros (@AlexCTaliadoros) June 2, 2020
Here is the resident of the house who voluntarily took in the protesters negotiating with police for food. pic.twitter.com/2X8iQgztu4
But there is no balance of power when it comes to Dolan, or his long-time friend in the Dark House. This isn’t merely some blind spot; it’s the sun that’s oriented them for a lifetime, one they’ve stared at so long they’ve gone completely blind. The Rockettes were “permitted” a one-time opt-out from performing at the inauguration. But at that same meeting, Dolan told them they’d likely be performing at a July 4th event Trump could attend. Attendance then was mandatory.
The only other NBA team that hasn’t issued a public statement after Floyd’s murder is San Antonio. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich called The Nation’s Dave Zirin to share his thoughts. Suffice it to say, the words “brand,” “company” and “workplace” do not appear:
“The thing that strikes me is that we all see this police violence and racism, and we’ve seen it all before, but nothing changes. That’s why these protests have been so explosive. But without leadership and an understanding of what the problem is, there will never be change. And white Americans have avoided reckoning with this problem forever, because it’s been our privilege to be able to avoid it. That also has to change.
“If Trump had a brain, even if it was 99% cynical, he would come out and say something to unify people. But he doesn’t care about bringing people together. Even now. That’s how deranged he is. It’s all about him. It’s all about what benefits him personally. It’s never about the greater good. And that’s all he’s ever been.
“It’s so clear what needs to be done. We need a president to come out and say simply that ‘black lives matter.’ Just say those three words. But he won’t and he can’t. He can’t because it’s more important to him to mollify the small group of followers who validate his insanity. But it’s more than just Trump. The system has to change. I’ll do whatever I can do to help, because that’s what leaders do. But he can’t do anything to put us on a positive path, because he’s not a leader.
“It’s like what Lindsay Graham and Ted Cruz used to say when they had the courage to say it: He’s unfit. But they have chosen instead to be invisible and obsequious in the face of this carnage. In the end, what we have is a fool in place of a president, while the person who really runs the country, Senator Mitch McConnell, destroys the United States for generations to come...[Trump’s] not just divisive. He’s a destroyer. To be in his presence makes you die. He will eat you alive for his own purposes.”
Silence is the voice of complicity. Dolan’s legacy as a public figure and a basketball owner are historical farts in the wind. His silence at this time, on these issues, is a shit stain on whatever tatters of a reputation will remain after he’s long gone. Black lives matter. Someday, what James Dolan says — or doesn’t — won’t. I hope to see you in that promised land.