On the night the New York Knicks pulled off a thrilling upset of the Houston Rockets, the main headline coming out of the night was the team’s treatment of their number one fan, Spike Lee. The Knicks have had an array of issues regarding ownership, coaching, and team performance over the past two decades.
However, denying entry to the teams most loyal fan over the last 30 years is simply disgraceful. Of course Spike Lee is not just a superfan but an icon, as the established film director has become one of the most well renowned sports fans.
He has become a part of the Knicks brand just from his pure loyalty and support for the team. Despite all this, Knicks owner James Dolan decided to forgo the celebrity and treat him more like an intruder rather than a respected fan.
The entire situation was handled improperly by the organization. It was all triggered because Spike was using the employee entrance (which he has always used) rather than the VIP entrance intended for celebrities. This caused security to come where they allegedly asked him to leave the Garden and he refused.
While being held by security, Lee told them “arrest me like my brother Charles Oakley.” Lee is referencing the 2017 incident that saw the former Knick great getting ejected from the building and having to be removed by security because of a dispute with James Dolan. Oakley recently saw his court case filed against the organization dismissed.
Lee was eventually escorted to the court side seats that he has held for years and had a discussion with Dolan. However, the feud continued following the game as the Knicks released a statement denying anything significant occurring while Lee refuted these claims.
Spike Lee shared his point of view on ESPN’s First Take explaining how the team did not notify him of the changes regarding the entrances. He talks about how a simple message by email or text could have avoided the problem. Lee was very upset with the team stating that he is “done for the season” with Knicks home games.
On First Take, he explained how he spends $300,000 on Knicks tickets a season, which roughly estimates to $10 million over the 30 years he has been attending.
To get one of the most loyal sports fans to stop going to games is a huge mistake on the Knicks part. Lee is almost as much a part of the team as the players, and to disrespect someone of his caliber is completely unacceptable.
What is often forgotten in basketball, and all sports for that matter, is that the game is played for the fans. There is no National Basketball Association if no one is watching. The reason players get paid so well is because of tickets, jerseys, and merchandise sales from the millions of fans around the world.
That is the reason the NBA/China tension that occurred in the preseason with Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey caused such a stir. The league would not want to lose the Chinese viewers because they bring in a significant amount of the league’s revenue.
The NBA is more of an entertainment business than a sport and their goal is to always appease the fans. That is where the Knicks went wrong, as they went against Spike Lee, a man who lives and dies with the team, over a logistical issue. Even if Lee was in the wrong, which is very much up for debate, the team should have never treated him the way they did.
James Dolan is already poorly perceived by the New York fanbase. He is the man that has been blamed for the team’s mediocrity over the last twenty years. This dismal season is just another among a string of numerous under-performing teams.
From trading away fan favorite players like Kristaps Porzingis, signing awful contracts like Joakim Noah’s or causing issues with Knicks icons like Charles Oakley and Spike Lee, Dolan has always found ways to dismantle the image of the team.
Aside from the fact that it was Spike Lee involved in this fiasco, the Knicks ownership needs to make some changes. Fans have pleaded for years that Dolan sell the team as a result of them not being competitive year after year. Respecting the fans should be the number one priority for all sports franchises.
They are the ones buying the tickets and merchandise that helps pay the players, coaches, and front office. If you take the fans out of the equation, professional sports are basically just grown men playing a child’s game. The fans are the ones who bring intensity to the game, the ones that publicize their teams through conversation, and are the ones that matter.
This situation is disgraceful to the sport of basketball because it shows that the Knicks ownership does not care about things like loyalty, passion, and heart. All characteristics that embody Spike Lee as a Knick fan, and the reason sports fans are so different from everybody else. The love between a fan and their favorite team is indescribable.
It should be an experience going to Madison Square Garden to watch your favorite team. Though Tuesday night showed that despite Lee’s continued commitment to watch his team, even during the rough times, the NBA is a business, and they could care less about the fans watching their product.
With the amount of devotion that Spike Lee has given the team, the least the organization could do is offer him respect. The essence of the league is not just about the people playing, but the ones watching too.