Legendary movie director and Knicks superfan Spike Lee has been attending games at Madison Square Garden for 28 years. He has seen some truly awful basketball but has remained a constant fixture in the court-side seats of MSG through the team's ups and downs, always supporting orange and blue. However, after a bizarre dispute before the Knicks' game against the Houston Rockets Monday night, Lee says he won't be attending another game this season. In fact, the Knicks superfan said that he's already given away the rest of his tickets for the last 20 games this season.
It should've been a celebratory night for the Knicks after pulling off a huge upset win over the Rockets in which rookie RJ Barrett had the best game of his young career. Plus earlier in the day, the. Before the game even started, though, a video purporting to Lee being denied access to the arena blew up on Twitter.
"No one told me!" Lee is heard yelling over and over. "I'm staying right here! Now if you want to arrest me like Charles Oakley, then go ahead!"
Lee's name was trending on Twitter before the game ended, but he was later pictured court side in his usual seats during the game. It was treated as one big misunderstanding by the Knicks, but after an appearance on ESPN's "First Take" Tuesday morning, Lee said that not only will he not be attending another Knicks game this season, but that he's being harassed by the team's owner.
"I'm being harassed by James Dolan, and I don't know why," Lee said. "How is it the wrong entrance if I've been using the same entrance for 28 years! It's Garden spin!"
While Lee thinks the press release put out by the Knicks' PR staff is "Garden spin," the team issued another statement shortly after his appearance on "First Take," saying that Lee considering himself the victim in this situation is "laughable."
"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 agreed to last night when they shook hands."
Also included in the tweet sent out by Knicks PR was a picture of the media entrance that Lee should not be entering through, as well as a photo of Lee and Dolan appearing to shake hands, which Lee denied to doing earlier this morning, but later retracted that statement. In a phone conversation with The New York Times' Sopan Deb, Lee responded to the Knicks statement that said he's perpetuating drama.
"What's laughable is how the Knicks are the laughingstock of the league in sports," Lee said. "That's what's f------ laughable."
The Oscar-winning director also said that the Brooklyn Nets reached out to him, but that he isn't thinking about changing his fandom. When Lee asked Dolan at halftime why he wasn't told about the new policy, the Knicks owner said rudely, "now, you know."
"Anything the Knicks say, it's going to be a lie," Lee said. "I challenge you to get the answers. I want Madison Square Garden to produce an email before I arrived at the Garden yesterday saying, 'Mr. Lee, you could no longer use the employee entrance.' It never happened."
In a statement released by Lee that was posted by Deb, the director doubles down on the fact that he should have been told ahead of time that he was no longer able to use that specific entrance, and takes issue with the press release issued by the Knicks.
"This press release which is upsetting me is an unmitigated, bold-faced lie. Capital letters. On my late mother and my late brother's grave, this is a lie. That they say that they had repeatedly asked me not to use the employee entrance. That is a lie. I have used the employee entrance on West 33rd Street for the last 28 years plus. Most recently, this past Wednesday, Madison Square Garden had a matinee performance of the Broadway show, "To Kill a Mockingbird." I went through that entrance. I've never used another entrance."
"I would like Madison Square Garden to show me an email that stated that I cannot use the employee entrance. Also, if this has been a policy, no one told me. It wasn't a policy last Wednesday. And until I went into the employee entrance last night, I did not know. So I was not the only person that didn't know because my ticket was scanned."
"If this policy was in place, how did I get in the building? I haven't snuck into Madison Square Garden since I was in high school for a Knick game. To reiterate, I have been using -- and my wife, we talked last night, because we dated for a year before we got married, we're on our 26th year of marriage -- for 27 years -- I've never gone through any entrance -- over 27 years -- but the employee entrance. Fro Rangers games. Concerts. Whatever. No one."
Lee explained on "First Take" what happened last night at the Knicks game that turned into a viral video on Twitter. The director said that after entering the employee entrance to MSG and getting his ticket scanned, security told him that he had to leave the arena and enter on the other side. Lee said Knicks owner James Dolan approached Lee at halftime saying the two needed to talk, but Lee did not want to hear what he had to say.
The Knicks and Dolan have a history of incidents similar to this one at MSG. As Lee references, they once, and last season Dolan for telling him to sell the team. Monday night was a perfect example of the Knicks being a dysfunctional franchise. It didn't matter that the team beat the Rockets behind the strength of Barrett, because the drama going on behind the scenes became the story. The situation is magnified even more since Lee is the most recognizable Knicks fan there and is essentially a free marketing tool for the franchise.
When "First Take" told Lee that he's spent nearly $10 million over 30 years of his Knicks fandom -- $300,000 per season -- Lee jokingly said he "looks stupid" considering the lack of success and the level of dysfunction within the Knicks franchise. Still, though, as long as situations like this continue within the Knicks organization -- mainly because of Dolan -- this team will continue to be the laughingstock of the league.