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Spike Lee: James Dolan Doesn't Make It Easy to Be Knicks Fan Amid Social Unrest

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2020

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 16: Director, Spike Lee during the 69th NBA All-Star Game as part of 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend on February 16, 2020 at United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Allison Farrand/NBAE via Getty Images)
Allison Farrand/Getty Images

Film director and New York Knicks superfan Spike Lee appeared on ESPN's First Take on Thursday and said team governor James Dolan tests his support. 

"Mr. Dolan does not make it easy for me to be a Knicks fan," he said. 

That came in response to the Knicks' tepid public statement regarding the protests condemning systemic racism and police brutality that are happening around the world. 

NEW YORK KNICKS @nyknicks

https://t.co/q1Ui8N29ai

A leaked June 1 memo—sent from Dolan to the organization before the team made its public statement—defended the organization's silence following the May 25 killing of 46-year-old black man George Floyd in police custody and the ongoing protests that followed:

Pablo S. Torre @PabloTorre

I'm told that Knicks players and employees are furious that the team hasn't made a public statement about George Floyd. And I just obtained the e-mail that owner Jim Dolan sent to MSG employees today defending the organization's decision to stay silent: https://t.co/xG1BA7tV5V

In a follow-up email to the organization June 2 obtained by Malika Andrews of ESPN, Dolan tried to clarify his position. That email read in part:

"Yesterday, I made a sincere attempt to provide my perspective on a very difficult issue, one that has no easy answers. I know how important this topic is to so many, and I do not want there to be any confusion about where I as an individual, or we as a company stand. So let me be clear: we vehemently condemn and reject racism against anyone, period."

The damage was done, however, and Dolan has been slammed around the sporting world for his handling of the situation:

Kendrick Perkins @KendrickPerkins

My energy before Dolan and the Knicks made a Public Statement regarding Civil Rights and I have the same energy after they released that BS statement today....again Dolan and the Knicks are the weakest link in the NBA! #BlackLivesMattters https://t.co/l1MGPGUk15

Sean Highkin @highkin

The Knicks’ statement may seem like it doesn’t have a lot of substance but that’s because Dolan is saving his real thoughts for the song he’s going to write about this on the next JD & The Straight Shot album.

Ian Begley @IanBegley

Caron Butler was asked on @AlexKennedyNBA's podcast about NYK owner James Dolan deciding not to release a statement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd: "This is not a business thing. This is a humane thing. And I think that he made a bad decision not speaking up." More: https://t.co/CAMtECcwPb

First Take @FirstTake

"That is pathetic, James Dolan!" @maxkellerman reacts to the Knicks’ newly released statement on racial equality. https://t.co/ng1OXXZYpR

It hasn't helped Dolan's cause that he's had public disputes with Lee, Knicks legend Charles Oakley and even the team's fans in Madison Square Garden, hurting his reputation with many people in the basketball community. Or that the team has had just three winning seasons in the past 19 years. 

Nonetheless, Lee said he won't give up on the Knicks just yet.

"My love for the orange and blue overrides everything else," he said, before adding the caveat: "To a point!"    

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