US judge dismisses former Knicks star Oakley's lawsuit over ejection from game

Circuit Judge Richard Sullivan said video "conclusively demonstrates" that security guards did not use excessive force in ejecting Oakley, now 57, from a February 8, 2017 televised game between the Knicks and the Los Angeles Clippers.

FILE PHOTO: The judge said that guards acted reasonably in removing the 19-year NBA veteran from his courtside seat after Oakley "unilaterally escalated the confrontation".   -  GETTY IMAGES

A US judge in Manhattan on Monday dismissed former New York Knicks star Charles Oakley's lawsuit against Madison Square Garden (MSG) over his forcible ejection from a basketball game nearly five years ago.

Circuit Judge Richard Sullivan said video "conclusively demonstrates" that security guards did not use excessive force in ejecting Oakley, now 57, from a February 8, 2017 televised game between the Knicks and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Sullivan said guards acted reasonably in removing the 19-year National Basketball Association veteran from his courtside seat after Oakley "unilaterally escalated the confrontation", and said that "no rational jury" could conclude otherwise.

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"Much ink has been spilled describing and characterizing what transpired," Sullivan wrote. "But at this stage of the proceedings, the case is no longer about words. It's about evidence."

Douglas Wigdor, a lawyer for Oakley, in an email said his client plans to appeal, and disagreed that the video conclusively absolved the defendants.

MSG declined to comment.

Sullivan, a former district judge, had dismissed Oakley's lawsuit in February 2020, only to have the federal appeals court where he now sits revive it last November.

That court said it was reasonable to infer from Oakley's complaint that the guards' use of force was excessive.

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The incident extended a feud between Oakley, a fan favourite and Knicks power forward from 1988 to 1998 who helped the team reach the 1994 NBA Finals, and James Dolan, the Knicks owner.

Dolan, who is also chief executive of Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp, is unpopular with many fans because of the Knicks' frequent futility, though the team's on-court performance has improved in 2021.

The appeals court rejected Oakley's defamation claims against MSG and Dolan over the Knicks' tweeting its hope that Oakley "gets some help soon" and Dolan's suggesting on ESPN radio that Oakley might have an alcohol problem.

Oakley has been seeking unspecified damages. Manhattan prosecutors brought and later dropped misdemeanor assault and trespass charges against him over the incident.

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