Former New York Knicks great Charles Oakley’s lawsuit over a 2017 scuffle that led to his ejection from Madison Square Garden has been revived by a federal appeals court panel.
Madison Square Garden Sports Executive Chairman and CEO James Dolan allegedly ordered Oakley’s ejection from a Knicks-Clippers game that year.
Oakley had been a vocal critic of Dolan’s tenure as the Knicks owner.
The court filing showed that Oakley claims MSG security personnel used unnecessary force to remove Oakley from the Feb. 8, 2017, game.
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The court order overruled a lower court’s decision to dismiss the case, which now grants Oakley the opportunity to pursue a lawsuit against MSG. Oakley may add Dolan to the complaint as a defendant.
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When the case was brought before Judge Richard Sullivan in 2020, he ruled that the former NBA player “failed to allege a plausible legal claim.” But several months later, the case was revived by the Court of Appeals in November. Sullivan decided to throw the case out again in 2021.
A video of the incident, which has since gone viral, shows Oakley being removed from the arena.
On Friday, a three-judge panel heard oral arguments and decided a jury should decide the dispute.
“In this case, the only video record of Oakley’s initial encounter with the security guards does not compel the conclusions that Oakley was provided a reasonable opportunity to leave the Garden and that any force used by the guards during that initial encounter was reasonable,” the three judges wrote.
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“Given material disputes about whether and when the security guards pushed Oakley, we cannot conclude as a matter of law that no reasonable jury could conclude that the defendants gave Oakley a reasonable opportunity to depart, and that they then used only reasonable force.”
Under New York law, MSG had the legal right to evict Oakley, however the legal issue is whether the security guards used unnecessary force.
Madison Square Garden Sports Corp. said in a statement Friday it is confident the case will be dismissed again.
“This matter should be behind all of us at this point, but because of the ongoing legal maneuverings of Charles Oakley and his lawyers, this case will apparently now have to continue. Nevertheless, we fully expect this case to be dismissed — for the third time.””
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Oakley was named to the NBA All-Star team in 1994 and played for the Knicks from 1988-1998. MSG has the right to appeal the decision to the full Second Circuit.