New York Feb 11 2017 Madison Square Garden has parted ways with one of its top security chiefs, just two days after a bizarre incident occurred involving several members of the arena’s security crew and former New York Knicks star Charles Oakley.
Knicks owner and executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company James Dolan confirmed that MSG split with former senior vice president for security Frank Benedetto on Friday during a rare media appearance.
Dolan linked Benedetto’s firing directly to the handling of the Oakley incident, which saw the 53-year-old fan favorite get into a physical altercation with at least two security officials before getting arrested and charged with three counts of assault on Wednesday night.
“That was just a situation where the person didn’t work out and this was probably the last straw,” Dolan said. “We’re obviously looking at everything we did here and what happened and [Benedetto’s] one of the casualties.”
Dolan said Oakley “came to the Garden with an agenda,” and critiqued Madison Square Garden staff with not ejecting the ex-player from the arena sooner.
“I think Charles should’ve never made it to his seats,” Dolan said, suggesting Oakley was inebriated at the time.
“From the moment [Oakley] stepped into the Garden, he began with this behavior — abusive behavior, disrespectful behavior, stuff you don’t want to say on the radio,” Dolan said. “And it just accelerated all the way down to his seats and ultimately to the confrontation with security,”
“Clearly our staff could see that,” Dolan added. “Were they intimidated and that’s why they didn’t do anything? I don’t know. The right thing, if everything had gone well, he never would’ve made it to his seats.”
The incident involving Oakley played out on live television Wednesday night during the Knicks’ 119-115 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers that aired nationally on ESPN. The incident occurred in the first quarter of the game when Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis was readying to shoot a free throw.
In two scathing news releases, the Knicks blamed Oakley for the altercation, noting, “We hope he gets some help soon.” The team claimed Oakley, who was seated just a few feet away from team owner James Dolan, “behaved in a highly inappropriate and completely abusive manner.”
Oakley, who has a rocky history with Dolan, denied the accusations in a round of media interviews on Thursday, claiming he said nothing to Dolan during the four minutes he was at the game.
“[Security] came over and wanted to know why I was sitting there,” Oakley told the New York Daily News late Wednesday night. “I bought the ticket. I said, ‘Why do you guys keep staring at me?’ Then they asked me to leave. And I said, ‘I’m not leaving.’ ”
The Knicks later fired back, calling Oakley’s account “pure fiction.”
The scene that played out as security forcibly removed Oakley from the arena will likely go down as one of more bizarre in NBA history. Flanked by tennis legend John McEnroe and an NYPD officer reportedly chanting, “Free Charles Oakley,” the former Knick was dragged out through one of the arena’s entrances under the stands, while onlookers watched in disbelief.
Several current and former basketball stars immediately stuck up for Oakley both on social media and in interviews, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and former Knicks teammate Chris Childs. Another former Knick, guard J.R. Smith, took to Instagram to present a t-shirt that reads, “I’m With Oakley.”
“We used to be known for Willis Reed running out of the tunnel, now it’s about dragging Oak into it,” Childs told TMZ Sports on Thursday. “Our franchise is so broken down, it’s sad to see.”
While Dolan didn’t address it, MSG security made headlines Thursday night, as well, when several guards reportedly attempted to oust a fan from a New York Rangers game for leading chants in support of Oakley.
Dolan, who reportedly once fired a guard for not immediately recognizing him, said Oakley was now banned from entering Madison Square Garden, but not indefinitely.