Who Is James Dolan? How New York Knicks Owner Found Himself At Center Of The Spike Lee Meltdown Video

He's a rich businessman, and a musician too!

Who Is James Dolan? Why New York Knicks Owner Is Currently At The Center Of The Spike Lee Meltdown Video Getty Images

He's wealthy, he's popular, and he's a native of Massapequa, Long Island, New York. 

But whether he wanted to, or not, he found himself in the middle of a controversy thanks to Spike Lee's recent meltdown, which was caught on camera at Madison Square Garden in New York City. 

In fact, Lee went one step further and said that he's declared "war" on him thanks to the brouhaha. 

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So, who is James Dolan, and what's his role in the Spike Lee meltdown? Let's look at what we know. 

1. Who is James Dolan? He's a successful businessman, musician, and basketball team owner. 

James Dolan isn't just the owner of the New York Knicks (although that is, perhaps, mainly what he's known for). He's the executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company, and he's the executive chairman of the MSG Networks brand of television stations. He's also a philanthropist who helped co-found The Lustgarten Foundation, which is the largest non-profit organization to fund pancreatic cancer research and has been around since 1988. 


2. He's in a blues-rock band. 

In addition to being a businessman and a philanthropist, Dolan has fancied himself a bit of a musician. He's the lead singer of a blues-rock band called JD & The Straight Shot, and he takes his gig with the band so seriously that he actually performed with them during the NBA Draft back in 2017.

3. Dolan comes from a prominent family.

Even though Dolan certainly has his fair share of success, he also comes from an equally prominent family. His father, Charles, was the founder of Cablevision (which has now become Optimum Online). Dolan, who is Irish-American, is also the nephew of Larry Dolan, who is the owner of the Cleveland Indians.

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4. He successfully beat a lawsuit brought against him by Charles Oakley.

Back in 2017, former NBA player Charles Oakley was ejected from Madison Square Garden after he got into a fight while sitting courtside. Oakley got so belligerent that not only was he ejected from the arena, he was arrested by the NYPD. In retaliation for Dolan's treatment of him, Oakley attempted to sue him for defamation but the courts in New York dismissed the case. 


"Oakley grossly misunderstands the law concerning a landlord’s right to remove a trespasser from its property. The law is clear that the MSG defendants had the right to expel Oakley from the Garden and that his refusal to leave justified their use of reasonable force to remove him,” Judge Richard Sullivan wrote in his decision. “Having refused to comply with Defendants’ lawful directive that he leave the premises, Oakley cannot cry foul merely because Garden security guards exercised the lawful right to remove him from the arena.”

5. Why did Spike Lee declare "war" on Dolan?

Spike Lee has declared "war" on James Dolan after tussling with some security guards at Madison Square Garden on Monday, March 2, 2020. The situation seemed to be a misunderstanding — Lee wanted to go into the stadium through the employee entrance, but he was directed to go through the VIP entrance instead — but Lee wasn't having it. You can watch the whole video below. 

Even though the situation with Lee seemed to be resolved peacefully — and Lee was allowed to sit courtside to watch his beloved Knicks — Lee said he was being "harassed" by Dolan and didn't want to see the Knicks for the remainder of the 2020 season. You can watch his entire interview with First Take at the top.


6. But Dolan doesn't seem to be interested in a "war" with Lee. 

Dolan, who is perhaps notorious for his overall refusal to speak directly to the press, has not issued a statement concerning this latest meltdown at Madison Square Garden. 

However, after Lee declared "war" on Dolan on First Take, Dolan made clear through the Knicks PR team, that he feels that Lee is no "victim."

"The idea that Spike Lee is a victim because we have repeatedly asked him to not use our employee entrance and instead use a dedicated VIP entrance — which is used by every other celebrity who enters The Garden — is laughable. It's disappointing that Spike would create this false controversy to perpetuate drama. He is welcome to come to The Garden anytime via the VIP or general entrance; just not through our employee entrance, which is what he and Jim [James] agreed to last night when they shook hands," the team said in an official follow-up statement.


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Bernadette Giacomazzo is an editor, writer, publicist, and photographer whose work has appeared in Teen Vogue, People, Us Weekly, The Source, XXL, HipHopDX, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, BET.com, and more.