This will not improve James Dolan’s standing with some segments of the Knicks fan base.
Dolan spoke to the New York Times about his new, eye-catching Shpere concert venue in Las Vegas. However, that conversation drifted into a discussion of his ownership of the Knicks and the NHL’s Rangers (as well as Madison Square Garden) and how he considered investing in other sports teams — soccer and baseball — before building the new concert hall in Vegas. And he was honest about it.
But while the Knicks and Rangers are “near and dear to my heart,” he said, “I don’t really like owning teams,” calling the economics of major league sports “kind of sleepy.”
Some people paying Dolan real dollars to watch his NBA franchise have felt the Knicks were kind of sleepy at points in the last couple of decades.
Dolan has the reputation of being thin-skinned about criticism and has had fans thrown out of the Garden for saying or holding up signs that say “sell the team.” He rationalized why those fans are shown the door, but not those criticizing the team itself.
A Madison Square Garden code of conduct, he said, prohibits attendees from being confrontational with other fans or Garden employees. Signs like “Sell the Team” — a rallying cry from long disgruntled fans — are “directed at, on a personal basis, the guy who’s in charge — me.”…
“If you held up a sign that says, you know, ‘Play better, this team sucks,’ you can do that. That’s part of being a fan.” The reason it is permissible to criticize the team but not the owner, Mr. Dolan said, is because insulting a group is different from insulting one person.
The reality is Knicks fans are not suddenly thrilled with Dolan as an owner. However, the team is coming off its best season in a decade, there is a star in Jalen Brunson and genuine hope for the future, and through it all Dolan has stayed out of the way of basketball operations and let team president Leon Rose steer the ship. There is always the sense with Dolan the other shoe could drop, but he appears to have matured as a team owner (or, at the very least, his primary interests have drifted elsewhere).
If the Knicks are winning, not many fans will be thrown out of MSG for yelling at Dolan. However, if things start to turn for this team while they wait for the right superstar to become available… New Yorkers are not exactly known for their patience.